Intermediate & Middle School Activity
‘Seedfolks’ was the 1998 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award honor title for older children by Paul Fleischman.
Read a summary of the book
A young Vietnamese girl plants six lima bean seedlings in an overgrown, garbage-strewn, inner-city lot in Cleveland. An elderly longtime resident of the neighborhood watches the child from a third-story apartment window, unsure of what the girl is doing all alone in that abandoned lot, but suspicious. Life in the neighborhood has taught the woman to be distrustful of people, even of children. But when the woman discovers the girl has planted beans, she is startled and moved by the tender act, and when she realizes it is far too early in the spring for such young plantings to survive, she calls upon a friend to help her secretly tend them so the child’s small garden will grow. From these small acts, a neighborhood begins to change. Where once there was an old, abandoned lot, a garden emerges. Where once there were disconnected lives, a fragile sense of community begins to grow. Seedfolks takes place in economically disadvantaged urban neighborhood comprised of individuals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, a neighborhood in which some of the residents are relative newcomers to the United States while others have lived on those very city blocks for most or all of their lives. Author Paul Fleischman gives them voice, writing each chapter from the point of view of a different individual in the neighborhood who gets involved in the garden. There are conflicts as well as connections that result from the garden’s growth in Seedfolks, but ultimately there is hope, and a flowering of the human spirit. CCBC Newbery Award Discussion
Read the first chapter of ‘Seedfolks’. Read one time to follow Kim’s story of planting the first seeds and a second time so you can listen and hear Kim’s voice.
Take a look at three poems from Fleischman’s book, ‘Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices.’ Again, read twice and listen to the sound of the words. Maybe you can find someone to read them with you sharing parts?
Listen to part or all of an interview with Paul Fleischman about the writing of ‘Seedfolks’ in which he reveals that music is his first love. Likely you are not surprised!
Now Let’s Get to Next Steps!
Guiding questions for your reading, writing, thinking and acting:
In a real sense, everyday is Earth Day, especially in the spring! Let’s notice nature wherever we live today. Take paper and pencil in hand and open the window or, better yet, go outside. Listen. Give yourself time…What do you hear?
Start by listing everything you can hear, human sounds and nature sounds—everything. If one thing is very loud write it down and then list the other quieter things. Now arrange some of the sounds, human and nature, creatively side by side. You decide where they belong. Maybe you’ll write lines like, Backhoe in the distance/Wind in the pine. Or Dog barking once or twice/Red bird calling out.
Your next step might be to make a list of everything you can see and then do the same creative pairing. You have the makings of a poem or two and you likely heard (and saw) far more than you usually do!
You are welcome to share part or all of a poem in our comment section (comments will be approved & posted within 24 yours) or on social media #socialjusticelearnanddo
Now for planting seeds. Kim planted her lima beans in an inhospitable place. (Later in the book, you learn that her seeds did indeed thrive as did the seeds and lives of many others in that once vacant lot.) Kim said, “And I vowed to myself that those beans would thrive.” What can you plant today? What are you inspired to plant? These questions can be answered literally or figuratively. Perhaps, you have some seeds in the kitchen you can start in a cup on the windowsill. Perhaps you have somthing ready to put in your family’s garden. Maybe you want to plant the seeds of hope for a family member who is worried? Or plant the seeds of friendship by reaching out to someone you know is lonely? Take some time to write about what you will plant (literally or figurtively) and then go for it! Whatever you plant, vow that your seeds will thrive, that you’ll take care of them as they grow.
You are welcome to share your experience and insights in our comment section below (comments will be approved & posted within 24 yours) or on social media #socialjusticelearnanddo.