Nina Soni, Master of the Garden
by Kashmira Sheth; illus. by Jenn Kocsmiersky
192 pages; ages 7-10
Peachtree Publishing Company, 2021
It’s “take a daughter to work” day, and fourth-grader Nina is going to work with mom, who is a landscape architect. They are going to build a garden – raised beds. Little sister, Kavita has been working on a picture of a garden plan for a week. Nina, a list-maker, has yet to start.
One of the things I like in this book is that we see Nina’s lists – even when they’re in her head. Occasionally there are text-boxes, as though Nina is explaining something, such as what a word means, to her sister.
Before the first boards are nailed together, Nina is thinking how they can sell extra veggies to earn money. She’s even got a plan. It involves her friend, Jay and Kavita, but when is the right time to tell them?
The plants start growing and everything is going well until…
- A rabbit eats Nina’s chard. All of it.
- Slugs! Yuck.
- Japanese beetles nibble plants.
- And the birds are attacking the beans.
As a gardener currently engaged in hostilities with a woodchuck (he ate Every. Single. Sunflower!) I liked that author Kashmira Sheth does not spare her young gardeners from the realities of beasts and bugs. I love how she brings readers into Nina’s family life – I can almost smell the cheesy-methi parathas toasting in the kitchen. And I really like that Kashmira includes some Q&A at the back-of-the-book, where she talks about her inspiration and why it is important for readers to be exposed to diverse books written by people who share those diverse identities. Full disclosure: Kashmira was one of the instructors for the Highlights Foundation workshop on “writing chapter books” that I took last summer. Because of Covid-19 it was a remote class; I know we would have had many fun discussions about gardening around the lunch tables had it been in-person.
Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.