One Little Lot
Diane C. Mullen, author
Diane C. Mullen is the author of the novel Tagged. One Little Lot is her first picture book and is loosely based on her life in the bustling city of Minneapolis, where she shares in a community garden with her neighbors. Diane also works at the renowned Walker Art Center.
Read more about Diane.
Oriol Vidal, illustrator
Oriol Vidal is an illustrator of many books for children, including the Time Jumpers and Hello Genius series. He is also a storyboard artist. Oriol lives in Barcelona, Spain.
Read more about Oriol.
- Coming soon!
School Library Journal
What to do with an abandoned city lot full of discarded trash and a group of sad honeybees? It takes a visitor with two helping hands and a great imagination to begin the process. It’s not long before a diverse group of adults, teens, and children are working side by side. They bag up trash, paint over graffiti, and build planter boxes. They plant seeds, care for the vegetables and, most importantly, become friends. Every now and then readers see the honeybees keeping an eye on the group’s progress. Young children will see many people collaborating to create something beautiful. Planting and composting are just a few of the many teachable moments in this story. The illustrations are bright and fun, with faces full of expression. It’s refreshing to read a story where people are able to put aside their differences and unite to complete a goal that everyone can take pride in and share. And the bees? They, too, are happy once they have plants to pollinate. In back pages, Mullen explains the necessity of honeybees and gives steps to make a bee-friendly garden. VERDICT By counting one through ten, children will discover how a community garden is built and see neighbors come together to take part in a special feast. This informative title highlights many positive themes. A recommended purchase for all library collections.
One empty lot needs two helping hands, three days of cleanup, and so on to become a community garden “full of delicious!”
In, mostly, aerial or elevated views, Vidal’s bright, painted illustrations track the lot’s transformation from a (tidy-looking, admittedly) dumping ground behind a rusty chain-link fence. Echoing the multiethnic and multiracial nature of the group of neighbors who gather to do the work (white-presenting figures are in the minority), the eventual crops include bok choy, collard greens, and kittley along with beans, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes—all of which end up incorporated in the climactic spread into a community dinner spread out on tables among the planting boxes. Typically of such garden-themed picture-book tributes, the spirit of community and joy at the eventual bounty elbow out any real acknowledgement of the necessary sweat equity (there’s not even a glancing reference to weeding here, for instance) or the sense of an entire season’s passing between planting and harvest. Also, as that public feast is created by considerably more than “Ten newfound friends,” the counting is just a conceit. Mullen closes with notes on the actual garden in Minneapolis that inspired her and on making gardens bee-friendly.
It breaks no new ground, but even the worms are smiling.
Inspired by the Soo Line Community Garden in Minneapolis, where Mullen has gardened for years, her debut employs a counting framing device paired with a refrain of “hungry honeybees buzz...” to share a community garden’s origin story. A chance visit by passersby (“two helping hands”) galvanizes a neighborhood into cleaning up “one little” abandoned lot. Step by step, the group installs raised beds “in a straight, lovely line,” plants “six plentiful seed packets,” and harvests “nine prized plants,” including bok choy, cucumbers, and kittley. “One little lot is full of delicious!” reads the penultimate spread, which portrays a bustling community dinner. Webcomic-style characters appear diverse, and Vidal’s intricate digital and mixed-media backdrops and aerial shots, representing the honeybees’ point of view, offer the small garden a warmly expansive feel. Back matter includes an author’s note, facts about honeybees, and steps to improve one’s own garden for bees.
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Page count: 32
11 x 8 1/2