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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tokyo Digs A Garden, written by Jon-Erik Lappano and illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka. Groundwood, 2016. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"Then, the house looked over
hills and forests and meadows
and streams. Deer grazed on
the hills. Foxes ran through
the forests. Birds sang in the
meadows. Salmon leaped from
the streams.
But now, all that is gone.
Tokyo's grandfather said the
city had eaten it all up. Cities
had to eat something, after all."

Those of us lucky enough to have grandparents with stories to tell can learn much about the way things 'used to be'. I know because I am a grandparent, and I have some of those stories to tell as well. Every time my daughter comes home for a visit, we find ourselves driving around the city where she grew up, and talking about how many changes have happened since her last visit. We remember stories and events from her childhood, and share our memories. I know that as my granddaughters grow older and return for welcome visits, we will have many stories to share with them about 'the olden days'!

Tokyo is a listener as his grandfather shares his tales of their small house and its beginnings, when nature was abundant, and how it has now been overshadowed by the many tall buildings that have been built around it. These stories resonate with Tokyo when he encounters an old woman on a bicycle, hauling a cart filled with dirt.

"But when they got to the street, they saw that there was no ice-cream truck at all - just an old cart, pulled by an old bicycle, pedaled by an even older woman. The cart was not full of ice cream. It was full of dirt."

The woman offers three seeds for planting, telling him they will grow whatever he wishes. Tokyo takes them home with him and shows his grandfather while they are having lunch. His grandfather advises that it is a good day for planting. Tokyo plants them under a rock, makes a wish, and covers them with soil. The wait for results is almost instantaneous. Soon, the city has returned to its original splendor; that changes everything about the city itself and how it is inhabited now.

What to do? Why not 'get used to it'?

"Gardens have to grow somewhere, after all."

The mixed media illustrations are brilliant. At first, the city is crowded with images of destruction and consumption - drab, colorless, lifeless. Grandfather longs for the abundance of the past. As the newly planted garden takes over, it becomes a warm display of color and humanity. Acceptance of the changes wrought brings busy life and contentment back to city streets.

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