Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano, illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka (2016)
Read by Umm April 28th 2016
Last night, I found the perfect book, though it took me awhile to recognize it as such. We had gone to the library late in the afternoon to attend a kids’ advisory board meeting (our elder child was participating, our younger child was on the sidelines, reading and exploring the stacks). I gravitated to the new book shelf. Two books jumped out, both due to their colorful covers. I read the first to my daughter. It was fun and indeed very colorful but didn’t come together in the end. The illustrations out-shined the text and left one looking for more. I picked up the second title, ‘Tokyo Digs a Garden’. By this time, my daughter was visibly tired. She followed along for the first couple of pages, but, then when I was called over by the librarian, she lost interest. Afterwards, we were interrupted by a parent, and my daughter disappeared back into the stacks. The advisory meeting soon concluded, and we departed, stopping briefly to check out the book which I hoped to explore with both children later.
The evening was rushed, and we didn’t make time for our normal story routine. As I approached bedtime myself, I decided to pick up the book and finally give it my full attention. I read it cover to cover twice, then I asked my husband, who was nearly asleep, if I could read it aloud to him (our elder child finally read it over breakfast the next morning and I’m carving out a special time to read it to our younger child, preferably outside).
I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading. It was that good. I wondered if I dreamed like the little boy, Tokyo, whether my dreams might come true. I woke this morning and looked out over our front yard which is now pregnant with spring. I saw three blue jays and countless majestic lilies which we helped transplant. It would seem that there was indeed some truth in the dream of the story.
But there was and is more. Tokyo Digs a Garden has an important lesson to teach. If we are to survive then we must let the natural world back in and give it the space it deserves–salmon, sloth, monkeys and all. As I write I’m having a hard time not giving away the end. My humble request: get your hands on a copy of this book and share it. Share it with your children and other children (and adults). Then in whatever way you can, be it in your own back yard or the empty lot across the street or the community garden down the road, plant a seed and cultivate it.