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The Summer My Father Was Ten


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Ages 4^-8. Growing a garden is fact and metaphor in this profoundly moving cross-generational story with a neighbourhood drama that children will relate to and exquisite watercolours that celebrate renewal and connexion. A young girl tells how every year she and her father plant a garden together, and every year he tells her the story of the summer he was 10 when he led his mates in vandalising the garden of his lonely, old Italian neighbour, Mr. Bellavista ("Spaghetti Man" the kids call him). The damage isn't deliberate; their baseball lands in the plants, and suddenly the boys are having a glorious time splattering tomatoes and peppers and tearing things up. Afterwards, Mr. Bellavista says only one word, "Why." Next year, he doesn't plant anything. The guilt-stricken boy apologises, and together, he and Mr. Bellavista clear, dig, plant, and grow things. Until he dies, the solitary immigrant is friends with the boy's small family. No messages are spelled out. As in Shine's illustrations for Diller's Big Band Sound (1997), the large double-page spreads of people and neighbourhood burst with light and movement. The personal narrative voice, the heartfelt characters, and the daily gardening work--weeding, watering, watching--are celebrated in the gorgeously detailed pictures that show how a garden transforms a vacant lot. Hazel Rochman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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About the Author

Pat Brisson is the author of Benny's Pennies, the Kate books, Hot Fudge Hero, and Wanda's Roses, an American Bookseller "Pick of the Lists." Andrea Shine is the illustrator of Big Band Sound and The Faraway Drawer, both by Harriett Diller. She lives in Southampton, New York.


K-Gr 2‘Every spring a girl and her father plant their garden. This shared time is, in turn, the catalyst for the man to recount once again the summer he was 10, a story readers hear through the words of his daughter. He had a neighbor who carefully tended his garden through the day and listened to opera music in the evening. A game of baseball that her father and his friends were playing turned into an afternoon of destruction when the ball landed in the garden and led to the boys throwing every tomato, onion, and pepper that they could get their hands on. The neighbor could only ask, "Why?" The child's father said he was remorseful and volunteered to help the old man the next summer, leading to a long friendship and his own love of gardening. Full-page watercolors depict a quaint seaside village while jeans and sneakers worn by the daughter set the story in the present day. Unfortunately, the faces are not well illustrated and the aftermath of the ruin of the garden seems a bit too impressionistically genteel. Teachers looking for a supplemental title on facing the consequences of one's behavior may find this useful, but it's unlikely to get requests for repeated readings.‘Susan Pine, New York Public Library

Every year my father and I plant a garden. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, marigold, and zinnias grow in neat, straight rows...and every spring my father tells me about Mr. Bellavista and the summer my father was ten. -From the book.

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