First-time writer Lappano and illustrator Hatanaka (Work, 2014; Drive, 2015) combine to envision a built world magically giving way to an almost out-of-control natural one.
Tokyo, a small boy, lives in a small house in a crowded city with his parents, grandfather, and “a cat named Kevin.” The house, his grandfather’s childhood home, is, Little House–style, engulfed by the city, which had also “eaten up” the surrounding forests, meadows, streams, and animals. “Cities had to eat something, after all,” observes the text fatalistically. One day an old woman rides by on a bike, pulling a cart full of dirt. She stops and directs Tokyo to plant the seeds she drops into his open, only somewhat-eager hand. They will “grow into whatever you wish.” He plants the seeds in his barren backyard and wishes. Over the next days, green things sprout, flowers bloom, rivers flow, bison stamp, and more, until the city has been transformed into a wild garden. While the drama of burgeoning nature is affirming and visionary, it is a little scary too. Bright, collagelike, geometric, Japanese-inflected landscapes seem at once welcoming and hopeful and thrilling and unsettling. Tokyo and his grandfather, both pale-skinned, have no eyes, just round, blue-rimmed spectacles. While this fascinating tale pays a debt to Virginia Burton, it also gives off a strong whiff of dystopia: "Gardens have to grow somewhere, after all."
A challenging 21st-century fable sure to spark discussions. (Picture book. 4-7)