Project Description



A Novel in Verse

by Juanita Havill
illustrated by Stanislawa Kodman

A verse novel for young readers that uses rich, evocative language to deliver a powerful story of the extraordinary magic that occurs everyday when ordinary people work together.

Everything about Berneetha is big—her mouth, her size, and especially her dreams. And when Berneetha decides to create a community garden on a vacant lot, twelve-year-old Kate Sibley just has to help make that dream a reality. At first the neighbors think Kate and Berneetha are crazy, but slowly they begin to come around. “Graffiti gangster” Harlan turns out to be pretty good with a rented tiller. Dr. Chitra Arockiasamy is willing to be in charge of tomatoes. Hank Glover would like to grow corn. And unsmiling Jacob Wasserman somehow manages to get some manure. Slowly, a community begins to grow, just as the garden does.

But just as the garden and Kate are both beginning to bloom, a sign goes up; a parking garage will be built on the lot. Can Kate and Berneetha and their friends keep the garden and the dream alive?

Award-winning author Juanita Havill’s story of a community garden in an urban neighborhood and the mismatched people who carefully tend it is told through the eyes of an impressionable girl in a series of richly detailed prose poems. The result is an affecting, lasting portrait of community life and the power of shared commitment and hope.

Hardcover: $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-441-9
Total Pages: 160
Size: 5 1/2 x 7 1/2
Language: English
Paperback: $7.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-575-1
Total Pages: 160
Size: 5 1/2 x 7 1/2
Language: English
Accelerated Reader
AR Quiz#: 122323
AR Reading Level: 4.8
AR Points: 1

F&P (Fountas & Pinnell)
F&P Level: S
F&P Grade: 4

Reading Counts
Reading Counts Level: 4.5
Reading Counts Points: 4
Reading Counts Interest Level: 3-5


“…there’s more than just a message here; there’s a real story…With quiet scribbly drawings of the tendrils of snap beans, wild dancing feet, and lacy leaves, the pages depict the power of working as a community.” ―Booklist

“Whimsical illustrations, fast-moving narrative, and extensive white space make it a good choice…” ―VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

“…the target audience will hear the freshness in Kate’s voice as she delivers a message of hope and resilience.” ―Publishers Weekly

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“…penciled illustrations add touches of whimsy and charm to the story…a nice read…” ―Kirkus

“a story of people working together to make their community a better place.” ―Minnesota Books and Teaching Things Blog

“…bright and engaging verse…This book will would work well for both whole-class work or in the hands of a student in need of a boost.” ―Library Media Connection

“Well-placed line drawings and an abundance of white space showcase Havill’s fluid verse.” ―School Library Journal

“…expressive illustrations.” ―Baltimore’s Child

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Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book ―Chicago Public Library 2008

Carol D. Reiser Book Award for Inspiring Future Volunteers ―Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta 2009

Charlotte Award suggested reading list (intermediate) ―NYSRA 2009

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Young Adult Top Forty ―Pennsylvania School Librarians Association 2009

Green Prize for Sustainable Literature Awards (Youth Fiction Award) ―Santa Monica Public Library 2009

Keystone to Reading Book Award (intermediate nominee) ―Keystone State Reading Association 2009-2010

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Meet the Author

Juanita Havill is the author of more than thirty books for children, including Grow; I Heard it From Alice Zucchini;Jamaica’s Find (Reading Rainbow Review Book, IRA-CBC Children’s Choice, and the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award); Jamaica Tag-Along (American Bookseller Pick of the Lists); and Sato and the Elephants (NCSS Notable Trade Book for Young People). She lives and gardens in Arizona.

Meet the Illustrator

Stanislawa Kodman is known best by her cats, who say she spends way too much time drawing, playing with letterforms, and watching movies, instead of entertaining them during their few waking minutes. The pressures of a muse are great but such is the life of a cat.