In this year’s wonderful Book Crush novel, Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King, eleven-year-old protagonist Obe Devlin tells a surprising and multi-layered story about the Pennsylvania acres that were once his great-grandfather’s farmland, one hundred years ago.
During one jam-packed and exciting week of reading, writing, discussing, and art-making, we explored the book’s characters and themes through many different lenses. We read:
- as detectives, searching for the secrets everyone keeps in the story and the unsolved mysteries beneath the surface
- as actors, acting out dramatic scenes from the book, improvising new ones, and writing our own
- as architects, examining how the design and form of the novel connect with its themes
- as historians, imagining the history of the land our houses were built on and asking parents and grandparents what our own great-grandparents were up to one hundred years ago
- as scientists, making our own observations of the natural world and imagining what innovations the future could bring
- and as citizens, putting the book’s messages into action by writing letters to Texas Governor Greg Abbott about the environmental topics that mattered most to each of us.
The nine amazing Book Crushers also tried out one of Obe’s favorite pastimes—picking up trash. Over the course of three days, they collected a large trash-bag’s worth of litter from the grounds of the Carver Museum, and then turned it into their very own Garbage Gallery: a series of sculptures and collages made from found objects. They attached “found poetry” collected and clipped from Me and Marvin Gardens to their art pieces as well, and the result was a powerful exhibit of artwork about pollution. As you’ll see, it really captures the spirit of both the book and the Book Crushers—passionate, a little wild, and full of hope.
Badgerdog Teaching Artist
One Hundred Years Ago
One hundred years ago, my great-grandfather started to protest. Migrant workers were upset because they didn’t have enough money for food. Migrant workers were poor, so their children had to do hard work in the fields. They mostly came from Mexico and were treated very poorly. When one worker demanded more pay, the boss ignored him. But all the migrant workers formed a union.
That’s where my great-grandfather came in. He gave money to the union and helped protest. Sadly the boss called the police and the police sided with the rich boss. The police stopped the union by beating people up. That didn’t stop the migrant workers, though. It took them years and years and great-grandfather Ellis continued to always be a strong supporter of the union. I learned from great-grandfather Ellis to never give up and to fight for what’s right.
Lena Colton Boas
Lena Colton Boas and Mayla Montgomery
Bottle Full of Trash
A reminder that if we continue down this same path, if we do nothing, if we fail to act, then our world will look much like this bottle full of trash (but probably less bright and colorful!).
Zachary May and Jordan Saleh
My Great-Grandfather’s Voyage
Every day I thought of it, my eyes welled up with tears. Should I have left my family or not?
I tried to distract myself with other thoughts. A few hours later, we arrived at the next port. I pushed myself through the crowd and walked to the next boat. When I got there, the person standing in front of the boat shook his head no. He started to say something I didn’t understand. I was pulled back onto the boat I was on first. I was angry. The sea sparkled in a way that made me feel that it was laughing at me.
After many nights staying on that boat, we finally were allowed to board the next boat. During these next few nights, I had made a decision to go to Mexico instead of Poland. I was watching the sea’s waves pounding against the boat when someone spoke to me in my language.
“Are you coming here from Poland?” said a young man about my age who was standing next to me.
“Yes, are you?” I replied. He nodded yes. Suddenly he shouted as he looked over my head. I turned to see what he was looking at, and my eyes started to water. We had made it to Mexico after so many months.
… And from an unwanted soda can, a paper tree sprouted from the earth into the air, reaching out its long, thin, airy limbs and offering a single golden flower.
Sunny Greenblum and Gillian Lucente
100 Years Ago on My Mom’s Side of the Family
One hundred years ago, my great-grandfather, named George Murray Hulbert, was born in the New York area. He loved to study olden-day ships on the salty water, and the breeze that was salty enough that it hurt your eyes if you kept them open for three minutes. He loved political things too, like president things. Well, when he was walking around the salty-smelling docks for a job, he asked if he could take the jobs near the docks. Some men tested him to see if he could do anything with the docks. He impressed the men so much that he got the job of being in charge of the docks.
Six or seven years later, he got the job to be mayor of New York City. His wife was so happy that she gave him a hug. Six years after that, he got a letter from the president saying, “George M. Hulbert, since you have done so well and proven to everyone that you’re a nice, smart, and clever man, you should be president!”
After two years, he got a letter from his wife saying that she had a girl child and named it Regina Elizabeth Hulbert. He smiled and thought to himself while looking out the window, Wow… I hope she is going to grow into that name. He smiled because he knew that Regina meant queen.
Imagine a small but powerful (and colorful and creative) volcano made not from rock and lava, but from recycled materials. Don’t worry, you don’t have to! Ruby created just such a volcano for us.
One Hundred Years Ago
I am Mary Sophia Borlase. I was born on March 11, 1904. I grew up in rural Philadelphia. I was the third of four children. I was also the only girl. Two of my brothers were older than me, and one was younger.
Even though I was only five-foot-two, I played girls’ basketball in high school. After graduating from high school, I went to secretarial school since my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college. I learned how to type and how to organize things like folders, documents, and flyers. After that, I managed to get a job as a secretary at the Sears headquarters. This was amazing, because most women didn’t have a career. Heck, we didn’t even get the right to vote till August 18, 1920!
I took that job seriously, and I kept getting promoted. Soon I became the private secretary to the chairman of the board of Sears. My boss was the rich Mr. Rosenwald. His family founded the Museum of Science and Industry. Mr. R also collected fine art.
Soon after getting promoted, I met my future husband. He didn’t want me to work, so I quit at age thirty-two. I still came to Mr. Rosenwald’s estate, though. I organized his traveling art exhibits. Then I’d ship them to loan to museums all over the country! I learned that it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or girl, old or young, black or white. \ Just reach for the stars.
M. M. Montgomery
The Day Obe Moved Seats
Tommy went to his seat. The bus driver greeted me saying, “Can you sit next to Tommy because he and Mike haven’t been making the best choices next to each other?”
“Sure,” I sighed. Then I walked slowly to get to Tommy. I didn’t see Mike, but I was sure he wouldn’t listen to the bus driver.
“What are you doing here?” Tommy asked.
“The bus driver told me to move next to you,” I said.
“Who listens to the bus driver these days? It’s a free country. Go sit somewhere else,” Tommy said.
“I’m not moving seats,” I said.
The bus driver dropped us off.
“Where were you, Obe?” Annie asked.
“The bus driver told me to move next to Tommy,” I said.
“Are you okay?” asked Annie.
“I’m fine,” I said.
“Well, tell the bus driver if he bullies you,” Annie said.
“Okay, I’ll tell her after school.”
100 Years From Now
One hundred years from now, when you are rushing to your son’s best friend’s birthday party in your fancy car, you look at the dashboard and see three lights. One is green, one is yellow, and one is red. You see that the only light on is the red one. So when you get to the next intersection, you stop and wait like we normally do. Then the light on your dashboard turns green and you go. When you get to the next intersection, red lights start flashing. That means you only have five more miles before you run out of electricity and you are stuck in the middle of the road. So then you go to the nearest electric station and fill up for 100 more miles. Then you pay your fee of five dollars. Then you speed off toward your son’s best friend’s birthday party. And three hours later you drive back home and cook dinner on your electric stove.
What if a recycling symbol were made out of recycled materials?! (And sentences from a book about a monster who only eats plastic?)
Older Marvin, Tommy, and Obe
It was one hundred years later. Tommy and Obe were watching Marvin splashing in the water.
Tommy said, “I miss those days, when Boardwalk was with the babies. Now the babies are gone with their own families, and Boardwalk is at home.”
“Yes,” said Obe. “I remember that.”
The Golden Garden
What will gardens look like in 100 years? Will they be lush, verdant, and filled with flowers, birds, and insects? Or will they look more like this… blossoms of soda cans and discarded trash? The answer is up to us!