Miss Dirt Turtle’s Garden Club
Illustrated by Hector Mexia
Headline Books, November 2021
The last day of elementary school was certainly celebratory for five best buds who had gone through every single grade together. The summer stretched out before them, packed with possibilities. Admittedly, growing a garden with the elderly Black lady the neighborhood kids dubbed “Dirt Turtle” hadn’t made the quintet’s to-do list.
When the motley crew of mean kids spotted the students standing outside of Dirt Turtle’s yard, the friends scattered. Except for Chatter. Fixated on the woman working the soil, he slipped through the gate in the chain-link-fence.
Silently, he watched. Mum, she worked on. Chatter soon joined in, mimicking her movements.
His pals returned, stunned at the sight. They immediately began teasing him. Unflappable, Chatter continued until each of his friends, excepting Marty, had joined him in the yard. For the four friends, there was something soothing and satisfying in the work and they asked if they could come back.
The jubilant mood dampened, though, when report cards were received. One of them would not be making the move to Middle School without passing English over the summer. The first hurdle Marty would need to clear this summer was definitely dismal. Particularly since he didn’t read well. Having a police officer and a social services worker show up to take his mom to rehab was downright discouraging.
Turns out, tending the plot, alongside Miss Dirt Turtle, brought out the best in everyone. Like the seeds they planted and nurtured, the children grew and blossomed, individually as well as a united, take-on-the-town, team.
I wish I could add Miss Dirt Turtle’s Garden Club to every Elementary School Library. The authentically diverse cast of characters captured my heart as they morphed from wise-cracking kids to a caring and inspired group of go-getters. The illustrations accompanying the narrative are absolutely awesome and aptly convey the kids’ emotions, in a slightly exaggerated, comical kind of way, making this treasured tome the total package.
This review was written by jv poore for Buried Under Books,
with huge thanks to the author for providing copy to donate to
my favorite Elementary school classroom library.
Reviewed by jv poore, August 2021.