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*The Boy Who Grew Flowers* by Jen Wojtowicz, illustrated by Steve Adams
The Boy Who Grew Flowers
by Jen Wojtowicz, illustrated by Steve Adams
Grades 1-3 32 pages Barefoot Books April 2012 Paperback    

“For my brother Wally, because you were there to show me that what makes us different is what makes us wonderful.”
The dedication on the back of this book by author Jen Wojtowicz, the midst of what appears to be a canvas painting of a sweet little home on a hill surrounded by trees, sets the tone of the book. The The Boy Who Grew Flowers celebrates uniqueness and making different choices.
“But Rink himself had the most special talent of all: during the full moon he sprouted flowers all over his body.”
The story goes on to reveal that Rink Bowagon’s blossoms are the most amazing flowers ever seen. His mama gently collects them from his body before he runs off to school in the mornings.

Young Rink loves learning at school, but because of the general opinion of his weird family, the boy finds himself to be very shy and generally reticent around the other students. Even the teacher doesn’t care to interact with poor Rink.

Luckily, a new girl comes into his class. She is of a dancing family, and though she has one leg shorter than the other, Angelina has the most “luminous” smile and a quaint little flower in her hair. In spite of the gossip rained down on her by the other students, Angelina finds herself wondering why no one ever spoke to Rink, while he observes her kindness and honesty from a distance.

When a dance is excitedly announced, Angelina sweetly refuses all offers of partners—for although she was of a dancing family, her legs don’t allow for dancing. Thinking on this, young Rink runs home and works for two solid days. He gathers supplies. He fashions them carefully into something he thinks might help the be-flowered Angelina.

He creates a beautiful pair of dancing slippers, with one foot boasting a sole that is one inch thicker than the other. As he imagines her dancing in them, roses sprouts from his head, even without the moon’s help this time.

Angelina is at home, sadly helping her mama with work. When Rink knocks on her door, bearing roses and the new slippers, she becomes more and more enchanted as she realizes that she can now stand up straight and even dance! With her newfound happiness, she takes Rink’s hand and leads him out the door to teach him how to dance.

After the dance, they sit together under a lovely tree and share their stories. With a trembling heart, he tells her his dearest secret. Being kind and honest, Angelina shares her own secrets with Rink, and a true lifelong friendship begins.

The language used to share Rink’s story is smart without being over the heads of the children who would love to read it: “…and the dirt path petered out into a little footpath.” Wojtowicz does not limit her storytelling to small words but allows for the growth of new word understanding by using the story itself to give possibly unknown words context.

With carefully chosen words, she paints a picture of young Rink’s adventures that are echoed by the rich original artwork of illustrator Steve Adams. He sets an old-fashioned feeling of a simpler time of morals and hard work. While the story is strong, the illustrations add a dimension of happy color and hope. The pictures are heavy on whimsy, using swirls to set the tone. Upon one page, tea is set, and the grandmother drinks with a Virginia Wolfe book—one might hope that the name sticks with little readers. Even the front and back flaps are adorned with small, beautiful images.

The The Boy Who Grew Flowers is a tale with heart and courage. It is scary to share your secrets, but sometimes what makes you different is worth sharing—sometimes, it is what makes you fit wonderfully with the right person.

Sharing with humor and acceptance, Jen Wojtowicz clearly illustrates how the different person may just be the one with the most to offer to make your life better.

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  Carolynn Evans/2013 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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