Friday, July 9, 2021

Gardening is More Fun with Friends

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.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.


  1. Due, this sound like a unique book. Puttingvir on hold at my library. Ty.

  2. I haven't heard about this series, but it sounds delightful! Nina sounds like a delightful protagonist, and this book's gardening adventures sound realistic and fun. Thanks so much for the great review!

  3. I enjoyed this one, too. Nina is an endearing character which young readers can learn a lot from. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

  4. Awesome that you took a workshop with the author. This sounds like a fun book. You don't see many middle grade stories that involve gardening.

  5. What a fresh take on gardening. I love how Nina is exposed to all the real things that can happen in a garden. What a fun read!

  6. What a cool concept. This one sounds great. Sorry about your sunflowers. I didn't know woodchucks were sunflower snatchers. Thanks for telling me about this book.