In this prequel to The Year of the Book (2012), Chinese-American Anna Wang explains how she met her friend Laura.
After moving to a new Cincinnati neighborhood, 8-year-old Anna doesn’t have friends nearby or activities to occupy her. When she’s given The Secret Garden and some seeds, Anna thinks about making her own garden. Laura, a white girl also new to the neighborhood, introduces herself, and the girls discover they will both be starting third grade at the same school. Anna suggests they make a garden in her yard, and they begin clearing. Apprehensive about attending a new school, Anna’s pleased Laura’s in her class but declines Laura’s invitation to join the soccer team. Soon gregarious Laura’s too preoccupied with soccer to spend time with quiet Anna, who works alone on her garden, but when Anna finds a baby rabbit in the snow, she turns to Laura for help. By spring, their friendship and Anna’s garden blossom. Anna’s reserved, first-person, present-tense narration reveals her concerns about fitting in. Telling details, as when Laura asks if Anna’s just moved from a “slum,” give readers a sense of Anna’s socio-economic milieu. The parallels she draws between The Secret Garden and her experiences with Laura and the garden add depth to this thoughtful chronicle of adjustment. Delicate spot art highlights key elements.
A gentle, feel-good story about the transforming power of friendship and gardening. (Chinese pronunciation guide) (Fiction. 6-9)