By Erika Tamar
Marisol lives on a New York City block that has an empty, garbage filled lot nearby. One morning in April, Marisol sees members of the community clearing it out. They tell her that they are making a garden, and Marisol decides she wants to plant something too. The garden plots have all been taken, but outside the fence she finds a tiny patch of ground where the sidewalk has cracked. She picks up a seed from the pigeons and plants it in her little plot. All summer long she waits, takes care of the seed, and wonders what the plant will be, until the morning when she arrives at the fence and sees a beautiful sunflower blooming high above her. People in the community stop and smile at the flower, commenting on the ways the flower makes them think of the places they come from, whether Poland, Mexico, or right there in New York City.
As the seasons change, Marisol grows sad as she must collect the last remaining seeds of her dying plant. All winter, she misses the sunflower. Then, one day, Marisol is called to come quickly to see something. Across the street, painted by teenagers in the community, is a beautiful mural of blooming sunflowers. Under the towering flowers, bright in her red dress, is Marisol watering her growing seed.
The Garden of Happiness blooms brightly with colors and movement-filled illustrations on every page. Community members play a large, positive part in Marisol’s story, and the growth of her sunflower is an accomplishment celebrated by all. The Garden of Happiness celebrates one girl’s efforts to help something live and grow, while people all around her are also helping to make the community a more beautiful place.
The Garden of Happiness is a great book for gardening or community beautification projects. The story could be read before beginning a garden or mural project meant to make the community beautiful.
The life cycle of a sunflower is depicted from seed until the plan dies and its seeds are collected by Marisol. Read before planting flower seeds
Marisol also has a supportive community made up of people from all over the country and world. A focus on diversity could show that even though people are from many different places, they all come together to clean up the city and they come together in their common experiences with sunflowers.
For a focus on the environment, the community works together to remove trash and make the earth healthy again. Marisol and the rest of the gardeners take excellent care of the garden and take pride in their work and the upkeep of their community.
Marisol shows that just one person can make a difference. She doesn’t have a large piece of land or special seeds, but she cares for the earth by making the effort to plant the sunflower and taking good care of it.