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Children’s book author celebrates Black boys who garden

Via Melina Mangal

Author Melina Mangal says her books Jayden’s Impossible Garden and the soon-to-be published Jayden’s Secret Ingredient were inspired by her own experience as a child reading books.

“When I was growing up, I did not see people, kids who looked like me, depicted as being part of nature and in nature, and to see that connection as part of our heritage,” said Mangal. “But it's a very big part of our heritage and culture.”

Jayden’s Impossible Garden tells the story of a young boy gifted with an eye for nature, even in the heart of the city. He embarks on showing what he sees with his mother, and helps her to notice the remnants of nature in their environment.

Jayden’s Impossible Garden won the African American Voices in Children’s Literature writing contest in 2019. Mangal, a school librarian, says she was inspired to write the book by both her daughter and her students.

“I have gotten a lot of feedback from people, including families, some neighborhoods, and even some schools that are planting seeds, and growing gardens,” said Mangal. “Some had already been doing that, but they were even more inspired and maybe planted a little bit more or some different things after reading the garden and connected it a little bit more to classroom activities. We did give out some seeds too with the first book. So it was kind of fun to hear about some of the schools that planted them.

Mangal says Jayden’s Secret Ingredient, which will be released in stores in August, emphasizes the importance of outdoor play and spending time in nature. She says it also looks at the connection between growing food and learning to trust foods harvested directly from the earth.

Both books are illustrated by Canadian artist Ken Daley.

Mangal’s next author event takes place on May 13 at Strive Bookstore in downtown Minneapolis.

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