Best friends and their flowers grow on different timelines, but patience cures all fears of being left behind.
The commonalities that El and Jo share seem to make it only natural that they are best friends—their short names, their small size, their small desks. But after Jo experiences a growth spurt in the spring, El is the only tiny person in class, and she feels smaller every day. At the end of the school year, each student picks a plant to take home and care for over the summer. Everyone reaches over El, who gets the last pot. Jo sees her friend’s small, flowerless aster, and she offers her zinnias; she is going to her grandma’s for the summer anyway. El plants the two side by side and waters them all summer, as she and Jo exchange letters. When Jo returns, the friends find, to their delight, that the aster isn’t the only small thing that has grown. The illustrations use gouache, colored pencil, and collage with delightful detail, most scenes on ample white space, with a few busy spreads that reflect El’s feelings. El, with tightly curled brown hair and tan skin, appears racially ambiguous, and Jo appears Asian. Their diverse classroom includes black, brown, and Asian children and a girl who uses a wheelchair. An endnote on plant life cycles differentiates annuals from perennials and biennials.
A sweet story with emotional depth. (Picture book. 4-8)