________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 38 . . . . June 3, 2011


Watch Me Grow! A Down-to-Earth Look at Growing Food in the City.

Deborah Hodge. Photographed by Brian Harris.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2011.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-618-4.

Subject Heading:
Urban agriculture-Juvenile literature.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

*** /4



Community gardens are good for neighborhoods. Neighbors of all ages and from many backgrounds get to know one another as they grow food side by side. Look for these shared gardens at community centers, parks, schools, apartment complexes or wherever people gather.

Community gardens offer a peaceful place in the midst of the traffic and hum of the city. They provide a home for birds, bees and other wild creatures. Best of all, they produce garden-fresh food!

The companion title to Up We Grow!, Watch Me Grow! focuses on growing food in small spaces in the city. Food can be grown anywhere that has soil, and so city dwellers must be inventive as to where they plant their gardens. In Vancouver, the setting of this book, people grow food in front and back yards, vacant lots, on rooftops, boulevards, and in container pots on fire escapes, balconies, patios and window sills. Some people even keep chickens or honeybees. City gardens can also be home to several other small animals- insects, birds, squirrels and earthworms. Sometimes people even plant specific types of flowers in their vegetable plots in order to attract helpful insects such as bees and butterflies. internal artIn Watch Me Grow!, readers learn about the sequence of growing food, from planting, tending, harvesting and eating it, to sharing it with others or saving it for later use by means of canning, freezing, pickling and preserving. The advantages of community gardens are highlighted, with the notion of growing food almost becoming secondary to the importance of creating a sense of community. In some areas, people get together to harvest apples, eat a meal or prepare food in community kitchens. Throughout the book are woven the messages of respect for nature, the benefits of fresh, nutritious food, and the importance of community spirit. The last page of the book explains a rapidly expanding social movement known as “urban agriculture” whose benefits include the creation of green space, beauty, a home for wildlife, and a connection with nature. This social movement is educational, not only in that it teaches kids how to grow their own food and where food comes from, but also in that it teaches children earth-friendly practices, such as composting, mulching, water conservation and the use of natural fertilizers and pest management.

      Watch Me Grow! will be of great value in a primary classroom, perhaps as part of a science unit on the life cycle of a plant (e.g. growing bean plants) or to serve as inspiration for schools that are starting their own small gardens. The text is simple for children to comprehend and is enhanced by abundant colour photographs taken from a variety of vantage points and featuring people of different ages and races working together for a common goal.


Gail Hamilton is Library Learning Resources Consultant at the Instructional Resources Unit, Manitoba Department of Education, in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.