Joy Takes Root

by Gwendolyn Wallace (Author) Ashleigh Corrin (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
In her grandmother's garden, a young Black girl learns about mindfulness and herbal medicine in this soothing intergenerational story about our connection to nature.

It's Joy's first summer in her grandmother's South Carolina gardena rite of passage. In the midst of okra, spinach, and strawberries, Grammy teaches Joy that plants are friends with many uses. Herbs, for example, can be turned into medicine.

There in Grammy's abundant backyard, Joy learns to listen for the heartbeat of the earth and connect it to her own as she takes deep breaths and puts her intentions into the soil. By the story's end, she learns to grow seeds in her own garden, honoring all that her grandmother taught her. With sensory-rich illustrations from award-winning illustrator Ashleigh Corrin, Joy Takes Root is a blissful reminder of all that might bloom.
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Kirkus Reviews

A quiet, thoughtful tale that promotes mindfulness, intentionality, gratitude, and connection.

Publishers Weekly

Making her picture book debut, Wallace centers a Black-presenting family's time gardening together as a means of looking forward and back. "The most important thing to remember," Grammy tells young Joy as they together tour Grammy's expansive South Carolina garden, "is that plants are our friends and our family." Pointing out all of the flora she cultivates, Grammy next offers up information about herbs' medicinal properties and teaches Joy how to plant seeds of her own. A moving series of spreads observes Grammy paying homage to the family's ancestors--"the ways they took care of this same soil" and the way their love is ready to be passed on--before inviting Joy to both "put our intention into the soil" and consider how "each drop of water holds the memories of all the water before it." Textural hand-drawn and digital illustrations by Corrin (Layla's Happiness) highlight the garden in colorful detail, showing fruitful connections via images of a bumble bee perched on a squash blossom and of Joy, seated on the globe, resting her hand on the earth. It's a reap-what-you-sow telling that considers what's been given and what's yet to come. Ages 4-8. Author's agent: Wendi Gu, Sanford J. Greenburger Assoc. Illustrator's agent: Nicole Geiger, Full Circle Literary. (June)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

A beautiful ode to both the natural world and intergenerational cultural wisdom that imbues the sequential steps of planting a garden with a deeply felt spirituality. —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Book
Gwendolyn Wallace
Gwendolyn Wallace graduated from Yale in 2021 and currently works for the International African American Museum. A budding herbalist, her debut children's book Joy Takes Root was inspired by her own experiences gardening with her grandmother in South Carolina. Her next picture book, The Light She Feels Inside (Sourcebooks) will publish Fall 2023.

Ashleigh Corrin is a graphic designer by day, illustrator by night. Her talent comes from her late grandmother, who inspired Ashleigh to serve people's unique stories with creativity. With her illustrations, she hopes to contribute to good laughs, nostalgia, vulnerability, transparency, and seeing the light in ourselves and others.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
June 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV013030 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Multigenerational
JUV011010 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JUV029010 - Juvenile Fiction | Nature & the Natural World | Environment
Library of Congress categories
African Americans
Grandparent and child

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