Click to order now!The Summer My Father Was Ten

By Pat Brisson

As they plant a garden together every spring, a young girl hears how her father at age ten with his friends carelessly destroyed a neighbor’s garden. This memorable story shows how we all can thoughtlessly participate in a random act that generates harm. How important to pause, to examine this experience, and see how a boy can choose to make amends.

I was most fortunate to first hear this story read by the author, Pat Brisson. Her tale of this young boy and an elderly Italian immigrant illustrates vividly how name-calling can be a precursor to further thoughtlessness.

When interviewing the author about this book, Pat stated the following. “In The Summer My Father Was Ten, a group of boys vandalize a neighbor’s garden. When I first read the story to my son, he exclaimed, ‘Mom, those kids are really bad!’ But kids who are not ‘bad’ do ‘bad’ things. The boy who throws one tomato does not intend to destroy a garden. The kids get carried away. While ravaging the garden, they were not considering their actions, only their ‘fun.’ How did this happen? Kids can identify with this mistake. “Librarians tell me they can hear a pin drop when reading The Summer My Father Was Ten aloud. The book is not just about the boy. This would have been a different story if Mr. Bellavista had denied the boy the opportunity to make amends. In the crucial moment when the boy asks to replant the garden, the man thinks, ‘Do I forgive? Do I give him a chance?’ And the boy’s life is changed. A true friendship develops. When the boy becomes a father, he is compelled to relate this story every spring to his daughter. Mr. Bellavista’s moment of forgiveness affects future generations. The girl now tells us the story.

“We do not know how one moment of forgiveness will reach distant shores. A book can lead the reader to have a change of heart. You want to make the world a better place because you think people around you deserve this. No one deserves to live in poverty or ugly surroundings. You don’t have to change the whole world. One kind action can change someone’s day, someone’s life, and can help an individual to see people in a fresh way. By tutoring one person or befriending a child who is ignored or teased, you can make a world of difference.”

A picture book format with a deeply moving story.

Service Learning Ideas: Immigration, Elders, Gardening, Bullying   So many themes interweave in this story of a reckless act that causes harm, and leads to forgiveness and reconciliation. Because of the way the story unfolds, many children immediately want to find an elderly person and plant a garden! Perhaps this will work in your community where many elders often have experience and know-how about gardening! The point is this can lead students to say: “What are the needs of elders or immigrants in our community and what can we do using our interests, skills and talents?” (and fitting in with the curriculum!)

Boyds Mill Press, all ages

Order The Summer My Father Was Ten
 The Summer My Father Was Ten
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