We are a Garden: A Story of How Diversity Took Root in America by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2021. 9780593123133
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
What did you like about the book? A visually stunning look at how migrating groups throughout millennia created the diverse population of America. Using the wind as a metaphor, the author describes how different winds “… blew people, like seeds, to a new land” and how they impacted one another – “Some came peacefully, and others pushed aside or clashed with the people who had called the land home …” Readers will come away with a sense that just about everybody in this country came from somewhere else, whether purposefully or by force.
The text, descriptive poetic prose, is complemented nicely by the watercolor illustrations, which have a retro feel. The illustrator does a fine job of portraying different ethnic groups with integrity.
Back matter explains, by page number, which groups are referenced in the text and illustrations, with more information about how they were treated by those who came before them, including: The First People; Arctic People; Apache and Navaho people; Spanish and British colonizers; enslaved Africans; European, Chinese and Mexican immigrants; and contemporary immigrants. There is also a glossary and a list of sources. I love the idea of the U.S. as a “garden” of diversity – it’s an admirable way to simplify a complicated concept.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Young readers will need a guide to explain how some groups exploited others, and that the “winds” that brought certain groups here caused the annihilation of others. The metaphor is beautifully poetic, but may cause confusion.
To whom would you recommend this book? For ages 4-8, for an introduction on multiculturism.
Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? 305.8
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: June 28, 2021