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Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood

Written by Tony Hillery & illustrated by Jessie Hartland
5.0 / 7.0
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Goodreads Rating - 4.2 / 5.0
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May 19, 2020
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What Does Bookroo Think of This Book

“The inspiring story of how a simple vision for a neglected lot in New York City leads to healthy food and exercise for local students and their families and neighbors.”

When “Mr. Tony” Hillery visits Harlem’s Public School 175, he notices from the school window a vacant, littered lot in the otherwise bustling neighborhood. Nevaeh, a student at the school, has dubbed the lot the “haunted garden,” but Mr. Tony invites her, her classmates, and the community to help him clean it up and convert it to a community garden. Though Nevaeh’s initial plant withers and dies, Mr. Tony encouragingly says, “We’ll try again.” In the end, the garden is so successful that the students are able to take home fresh grown fruits and vegetables to their families, and the garden spreads from one location to over ten plots throughout Harlem. An Author’s Note shares a lot of the impressive details about author “Mr. Tony” Hillery’s actual development of the Harlem Grown gardens, which provide local kids an alternative to the myriad of unhealthy food options in their community as well as a good outlet for their abundant energy. Hartland’s gouache illustrations are fluid and particularly excellent in portraying the city landscape—incorporating many details those familiar with Harlem’s rich culture and history will appreciate, like the Apollo Theater—and depicting the garden’s transformation from barren lot to beautiful, thriving garden that inspires life and light throughout the entire neighborhood.

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Publisher Summary

“An inspiring picture book for youngsters with meaningful ties to the environment, sustainability, and community engagement.” —Booklist
“Hartland’s gouache illustrations wobble endearingly, colorfully capturing the children’s triumph, and the kinetic energy and colorful vibrancy of the city neighborhood.” —Publishers Weekly

Discover the incredible true story of Harlem Grown, a lush garden in New York City that grew out of an abandoned lot and now feeds a neighborhood.

In a big city called New York
In a bustling neighborhood
There was an empty lot.
Nevaeh called it the haunted garden.

Harlem Grown tells the inspiring true story of how one man made a big difference in a neighborhood. After seeing how restless they were and their lack of healthy food options, Tony Hillery invited students from an underfunded school to turn a vacant lot into a beautiful and functional farm. By getting their hands dirty, these kids turned an abandoned space into something beautiful and useful while learning about healthy, sustainable eating and collaboration.

Five years later, the kids and their parents, with the support of the Harlem Grown staff, grow hundreds of pounds of fruits and vegetables a year. All of it is given to the kids and their families. The incredible story is vividly brought to life with Jessie Hartland’s “charmingly busy art” (Booklist) that readers will pore over in search of new details as they revisit this poignant and uplifting tale over and over again.

Harlem Grown is an independent, not-for-profit organization. The author’s share of the proceeds from the sale of this book go directly to Harlem Grown.

What Kind of Book is Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood

Book Lists That Include Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood

Book Topics › exercise
Children's Books About Exercise
Book Topics › health
Children's Books About Health
Book Topics › community helpers
Children's Books About Community Helpers
Book Topics › school
Children's Books About School
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Who Wrote Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood

Tony Hillery

Tony Hillery is the founder and executive director of Harlem Grown. In 2011 he began volunteering at a public elementary school in Harlem. It was then that he noticed the vacant lot across from the street and had a big idea. The rest is history. Tony lives in New York, New York. Harlem Grown is his picture book debut.

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Who Illustrated Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood

Jessie Hartland

Jessie Hartland ( has written and illustrated many picture books, including Steve Jobs: Insanely Great!, How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum, Bon Appetit: the Delicious Life of Julia Child, and How the Meteorite got to the Museum. Her paintings have been exhibited in Venice, Tokyo, Long Island, and New York City. She has painted murals at a Japanese amusement park, designed Christmas windows for Bloomingdale’s, and put her mark on ceramics, watches, and all sorts of other things. Her illustrations have appeared in the New York Times, Travel and Leisure Family, Martha Stewart Kids, Bon Appetit, and Fit Pregnancy. She lives in New York City.

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What Has Tony Hillery Said About This Book

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What Has Jessie Hartland Said About This Book

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Book Details

Publication Date:
May 19, 2020
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