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Where Wonder Grows

Review
By Shelf Awareness

In Where Wonder Grows, nature rocks--literally. Xelena González and Adriana M. Garcia, the team behind the Pura Belpré Illustration Honoree All Around Us, here introduce readers to the wonder and healing power of the natural world and the importance of sharing in cultural traditions.

"When grandma walks to her special garden, we know to follow." The narrator and her two sisters gather stones from around the garden and sit with their grandmother to learn. The girls are told in school that "rocks are things" but, as they collect an array of crystals, stones and "relics from nature," the sisters and grandmother acknowledge that "they are beings" and "are alive with wisdom." González's easy, poetic pace feels like a meditation, inviting readers to ponder the interaction between people and the earth: the rocks and crystals "were here long before us and know more about our world than we ever will."

Where Wonder Grows is not just a story about pretty stones; it's about generational knowledge. Grandma tells the girls that in the sweat lodge, the stones "help send songs and prayers through the air, to our ancestors./ They have survived fire, and so they give us strength." The narrator and her sisters are excited, anticipating the day when they're old enough to participate in the prayers of the sweat lodge. "When we're old enough to enter... we'll know exactly what she means," the narrator observes of her grandmother. González's text conveys a sense of marvel, for instance at the impact nature has on itself: "water makes and breaks even the biggest rocks, very slowly, over time." This is also a lesson to humans: "When life feels too hard, just remember to go with the... flow." These subtle contemplations are a lesson in patience and thoughtful spiritual engagement, no matter the reader's background.

Garcia's illustrations have a dream-like quality that pairs beautifully with González's spiritual yet grounded narration. The fully saturated colors and curving lines reinforce the awe of "the colors of crystals and the glow of grandma's stories." Garcia's vividly colored stones have a magical quality; white lines emanating from the crystals are bright bursts of suns, oceans and the movement of stars. This visual meshing of the tangible and intangible creates a seamless connection between the poetry of the text and the art. As the story progresses, the day passes, and warm daylight tones give way to cooler night-time shades that make it feel like readers have completed the journey of knowledge with the narrator and her family.

An author's note at the end gives facts about rocks and encourages further reader participation with questions like, "What do you gather in your nature collections?" and "Do you name any of your rock friends?" --Zoraida Córdova, author and freelance book reviewer

Shelf Talker: In this dynamic picture book, a grandmother teaches a trio of granddaughters about their spiritual connection to the earth.