Rooftop Garden

Illustrated by Pati Aguilera

“A rooftop garden is what we need / Friends and family all agree. / A garden starts with hardy seeds. / A rooftop garden is what we need.”

Danna Smith’s Rooftop Garden invites readers to be part of a community rooftop garden all the way from planting day to a harvest feast. The first opening shows a line of buildings, with a rooftop platform where a diverse intergenerational community is building raised plant beds. Catchy rhymes like, “Sow the seeds with a shovel and hoe. Plant them, pat them, row by row,” move the action along the next 7 openings as neighbors care for their garden and for each other. Weaving together a singsong narrative and Pati Aguilera’s vibrant and playful illustrations, Rooftop Garden takes readers through the 8 steps of the gardening process from sowing seeds to watering, weeding, protecting plants from pests, and finally the harvest. Everyone chips in to help throughout the season and finally celebrates the harvest together at a shared rooftop garden feast: “Prepare the food and take a seat. Pass the plate and let’s all eat. A garden feast! Oh, what a treat.” The book ends with openings depicting 8 steps for growing your own garden, 6 stages of plant growth, and a musical score to sing along to the story. Readers can also use the accompanying QR code and URL to access the book’s online singalong, sung by Holly Turton, and video animation, all available at

Rooftop Garden is an effective text for engaging young readers in conversations regarding the relationship between urban environments and food, especially local food, urban gardens, community gardens, food justice and gardening. While certain specifics of gardening are discussed, it is collective action, diverse communities (human and nonhuman), and sustainability that hold the greatest potential for this book for climate literacy pedagogy. For example, Aguilera’s illustrations which depict a wide diversity of gardeners young and old, highlight the communal, equitable, and community-oriented potential of urban and rooftop gardens: a practical application of food justice (see also People Care, resilience, food sovereignty). Gardening is presented as building a close sense of community but also as play and learning for the young: “Bring lettuce, carrots, mint and sage. Mark them with the signs we made.” Biodiversity is another central topic. Aguilera’s illustrations show the neighbors planting a wide variety of fruits and vegetables often in the same spaces. This lends itself nicely to discussions on companion planting and the ways plants can help other plants grow. This aspect can be used to make further connections about the importance of people working together to grow and thrive. The book also highlights the role of pollinators such as hummingbirds, bees, insects and butterflies: “Garden friends fly to and fro, Spreading pollen as they go.” These pages offer another chance to discuss biodiversity as well as bring in the topics of interdependence, nature’s cycles, and the role of humans in the ecosystem—for example providing plants with water and, when needed, shade (see Kinship Care). Rooftop Garden continues each of these themes as neighbors weed the garden (filling a sack for compost) and add to “a bug jug” for later release of the snails and slugs away from the garden, protecting the plants from pests without using pesticides (see permaculture, regenerative agriculture). Each of these opportunities provide inroads for discussing individual actions children and their families might take to care for the environment around them, even within urban spaces (see Earth Care). Smith’s singsong narrative paired with Aguilera’s fun-loving, brightly colored illustrations create an engaging book full of multiple entry points for young readers into rich and critical discussions about important climate issues.

©2024 ClimateLit (Colleen Redmond)

Publisher: Barefoot Books, 2022

Pages: 24

ISBN: 978-1-64686-495-9

Audience: Sprouts (0-3)

Format: Picturebooks

Topics: Bees, Biodiversity, Butterflies, Collective Action, Community Garden, Companion Planting, Composting, Cultural Diversity, Earth Care, Ecosystems, Food, Food Justice, Food Sovereignty, Gardening, Hummingbirds, Individual Action, Insects, Interconnectedness, Kinship Care, Local Food, Nature's Cycles, People Care, Permaculture, Pesticides, Pollinators, Regenerative Agriculture, Resilience, Rooftop Garden, Seeds, Sustainability, Urban Environments, Urban Garden