When Chloë and her father move from Montreal to Victoria, Chloë doesn’t think it will be for forever. After all, her whole life is back in Montreal.
Her mom, her best friend, and her city neighborhood are all waiting for her to return, so she doesn’t feel she needs to work too hard to settle into the new place. But she does want to learn more about her grandfather, Uli. Her dad and Uli don’t get along well, and no matter how many times Chloë asks to be told why, her dad always puts her off. But when she starts spending time with Uli in his garden, where he grows seeds that have been given to him by many different people, she wants to know even more. Perhaps best known for her nonfiction, Mulder carefully crafts a book about family and vegetables that offers a glimpse into the ways in which gardening can become something more than simply growing plants. The scenes of Chloë and her grandfather are poignant and realistic and might even spark some agricultural interest in middle-graders. But the rather slow-burning narrative sometimes gets bogged down with internal reflection, and the slow reveal of plot points can occasionally feel stagnant. However, the characters (who are mostly white, as a friendly Japanese-Canadian neighbor points out) are warm, and the concept of seed vaults is made wonderfully personal.
Families are complicated, but gardening usually isn’t. (Fiction. 9-11)