Jackson Jones is a true-blue city kid, down to the soles of his Nike Air Jordans; he loves apartment life, shooting hoops, and writing comic books with best buddy Reuben Casey. Thus it comes as a shock when his mother, who ""never got over"" growing up in the country, gives Jackson not a basketball but a community garden plot for his tenth birthday. Still, Jackson makes plans to grow flowers: they can be a birthday present for his mother -- or sold to buy a basketball. Unfortunately, the garden also grows weeds and trouble -- with friends like careful Reuben and principled Juana, and with enemies like bully ""Blood"" Green. When flowers finally bloom (""...BOOM! Zinnias zinging. Nasturtiums knocking. Marigolds gleaming like gold""), Jackson can feel that ball in his palm, but then disaster strikes. It takes an artistic garden transformation, confessions, and apologies all around to salve wounds in time for Mama's birthday. The author brings smart, snappy dialogue and characters both funny (e.g., Juana's hellbent-but-sweet siblings) and admirable (big Mailbags Mosely, who ""looks like a buffalo smiling at a violet"" as he labors in his garden, and goes to college when he isn't delivering mail) to this winner of the publisher's first annual Marguerite de Angeli prize for ""fiction that examines the diversity of the American experience."" Illustrations not seen.