The Summer My Father Was Ten
by Pat Brisson 

Themes: Self Control, Community, Choices, Responsibility, DiversitySummerMyFatherWasTen.jpg

Grade: 2-8

Story Synopsis: A young girl recalls a story she has heard from her father over and over again. Many years ago when her father was ten, he lived in an apartment building below an older man named Mr. Bellavista. Each spring and summer, Mr. Bellavista worked quietly to plant a garden in the usually cluttered space next to their building: tomatoes, peppers, onions and zinnias in neat straight rows. When the girl’s ten year old father and his friends play a game of baseball near the apartment building one summer day, a ball gets accidentally hit into the garden. The boy, (unnamed in the book) makes a quick decision without thinking about the consequences. He throws back a tomato instead of the baseball. As he had hoped, the friends find the splattering of the tomato very funny and proceed to throw all of the vegetables they can find. By the time the boys are through, the garden has been destroyed. The boy immediately regrets his decision when he sees the solemn face on his elderly neighbor, but does nothing. The story then follows how the unnamed boy chooses to be accountable for his actions and the wonderful relationship he creates and continues to have even after Mr. Bellavista is no longer his neighbor.

Why We Love This Book: We love this book because it gives a fantastic example of how people make mistakes and learn from them. How, with thought and hard work, the situation can be improved. It sends the message that there is always something positive and peaceful that can be done. This book has realistic watercolor illustrations that define the characters as real people, not cartoons or caricatures. Written in simple and engaging language that will capture the attention of primary and intermediate students, this book is a wonderful tool to teach the foundations for empathy and caring.

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