Young Grace, the titular Larry’s neighbor, learns that a garden is more than the sum of its produce.
Larry, white-haired, bearded, and bespectacled, grows rainbow chard, zebra-striped tomatoes, and purple potatoes in his garden, where Grace helps plant, prune, hoe, and harvest. When problems arise—bugs in the carrots, for instance—Larry’s philosophy is summed up in what he says first: “We can figure this out.” He and Grace (both appear white) plant marigolds to discourage bugs and build wire cages to protect tomatoes from squirrels. Alary’s unfussy narrative and Reich’s cheery, bright art create a welcoming and friendly feel for the neighborhood and the garden. “We’re not just growing vegetables,” Larry tells Grace. The tomato seedlings that he and Grace start over the winter have sprouted from seeds they gathered. Larry, a teacher, takes the tomato seedlings to school, where each is nurtured by a student, then given with a note of explanation to a neighbor the student selects. An author’s note explains that the story was inspired by a real-life teacher who created this project as a way to build community. In the story, when Grace and Larry encounter a problem caused by a neighbor’s fence, it is Grace who takes what she has learned from gardening with Larry and helps to create a positive solution.
A warmhearted lesson in community and creative thinking, delivered simply. (Picture book. 4-8)