Author Guest Post: “The Plant Rescuer and Following Dad’s Footsteps” by Matthew Rivera, Author of The Plant Rescuer


“The Plant Rescuer and Following Dad’s Footsteps”

I have a close relationship with my father, and I grew up watching him tend the yard. Whether it was mowing the lawn, pulling apart clumps of irises, or delicately staking his jalapeño plants, my dad has a knack for gardening. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit his skills. As an adult, I love to garden, and it’s become my passion. However, it’s taken a lot of hard work and perseverance. My backyard garden is a source of pride. I grow black-eyed Susans, hollyhocks, poppies, cosmos, dahlias, and a host of other flowering plants. I continuously learn through tips I’ve picked up from blogs, books I’ve found in my local bookstores, and of course, the library.

Growing up, my parents believed in giving me enough space to figure stuff out on my own. As a child, I spent Saturday’s pouring through stacks of books I’d find in my local library. Whether it was learning how to bake cakes from scratch, or figuring out how to raise chickens, the library was my go-to for discovery and learning. In THE PLANT RESCUER, I wanted Manny’s experience with problem-solving to reflect that of my own. Some have asked why Manny couldn’t research on a computer, like some children today. I like to point out that Manny’s family doesn’t own a computer. Besides, he loves the experience of going to the library with Nana.

THE PLANT RESCUER, isn’t entirely biographical. It’s a pastiche of childhood experiences coupled with a discussion I had with a gardener while living in Los Angeles. The gardener shared how he was working hard to send his child to college. My father wasn’t a professional gardener, but he worked a lot, which included graveyard shifts. Similarly, my dad was a hard-working parent that didn’t have a lot of time. This is why Manny feels it’s important to figure things out for himself, and frets over how to bring his ‘amigo’ back to life. The fretting part of the story is most-definitely autobiographical.

To this day, I’ll share gardening frustrations with my dad, and he’s always quick to point out that he mostly learned through a lifetime of trial and error. Unfortunately over the years, I’ve had to toss plenty of my own errors in the compost bin. Regardless of how frustrated I get, I remember the advice my dad once shared with me, it’s the act of gardening where we need to find joy. Getting the fennel to reach seven feet tall, or the pothos to wrap around the living room is icing on the cake.

Published May 21st, 2024 by Neal Porter Books

About the Book: Manny harnesses love, determination, and a visit to the library to care for his first plant and make his gardener father proud.

Manny comes from a long line of gardeners, and to him, the greatest gardener of all is his dad. Dad always knows what plants need. Even with no yard to garden in, he tends their small apartment into a lush jungle.

One day, the time comes for Manny to get his very own first plant! Dad trusts Manny to care for his new amigo, and Manny is determined to rise to the challenge. But watching Dad’s masterful work isn’t the same as knowing everything he knows, and Manny’s amigo keeps wilting, no matter what he tries! Dad would know what to do, but this is Manny’s plant, and he wants to be the one to save it.

Luckily, before his new amigo, Manny had another friend: the library! A day of research and a stack of books gets him back on track in no time. Manny’s plant grows bigger and bigger, until his room overflows with beautiful, healthy leaves, plentiful enough for Dad to share cuttings with the whole neighborhood. Now Manny can proudly say that he is the youngest in a long line of gardeners.

Longtime illustrator Matthew Rivera makes his authorial debut with a story that will warm every green-thumbed heart. Any child with an older role model whose shoes they dream of growing into will delight in Manny’s success and his zest for independent trial-and-error.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

About the Author: Matthew Rivera grew up in Arizona, and worked for many years as an art director for agencies, large corporations and toy companies. He now lives in Portland, Oregon and is an author and illustrator of books for children. He can be found working at his desk with a large cup of coffee, while Mavis, his pet rabbit, yanks his shoelaces for extra greens.

Thank you, Matthew, for sharing this wonderful dad story with us on Father’s Day!

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