Harlem Grown by Tony Hillery

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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 thousands 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.

Targeted Vocabulary:

  • Haunted - something scary or not safe
  • Litter - trash that is left in public spaces
  • Canvas - a fabric or open space to create something on
  • Seedlings - a new or young plant
  • Wilted - something that has become weak or loose

Resiliency Skill/Theme

  • Collaborate - to work on a project with other people
  • Is there a project you would like to work on with other people? What is it? Write about it in your journal.
  • In Harlem Grown, students learned how to collaborate when they worked with Mr. Tony to create a community garden in the empty lot, across from their school.


Check out Literacy Lunch with Lee for free English lessons--new videos are focused on the featured interactive read-aloud.