Older Adult’s Problem: Grief over the death of a life partner and being targeted by gentrification and housing discrimination
Youth Savior Solution: More plants.
The Moral: Anything can be overcome with plants! Plants and kids, man. Solutions.
First – housing discrimination is a very serious problem when it comes to stigma and bias against older people. This book doesn’t address that. All we know is that this guy had a build a home he loved with his life partner, she died, and for reasons beyond his control, his home ended up demolished. Dude has reasons to be grouchy. At least the book let’s him have this complexity.
But – all that complexity is left as a subtle reveal at the end. You have to give kids (particularly younger kids) lots of time and nudges to even notice what’s left unsaid. Skilled storytelling, but leaves an unacceptable opportunity for kids to internalized the message that old men are by nature grouchy and insufferable, to be calmly tolerated and not listened to. Compounded by the fact that it’s just kind of a boring story that few kids will want to read twice and, well… impact matters more than intent.
This is a great story about community action and organizing, really one of the best books about building a community garden. Probably because it goes into details on stuff like getting permits. (Which is exactly as exciting as it sounds.)
But I am not cool with the way they leverage the grouchy old man trope as a pedestal for a young person to lift up higher. She’s a smart, hard-working character. She would have been smart and hardworking even if the author hadn’t added the grouchy old man back story in an attempt to give the story a bit of pizzazz. It’s an extra bummer then, that even after throwing older adults under the bus, the story still remains so freaking boring.
Permits! Humans are innovative creatures who can make anything interesting. There has to be a better way to make zoning laws and obtaining city permits exciting that doesn’t perpetuate stereotypes against marginalized folks.