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Children's Fiction Environment

Tokyo Digs a Garden

by (author) Jon-Erik Lappano

illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Mar 2016
Environment, City & Town Life, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 3 to 7
  • Grade: p to 3
  • Reading age: 3 to 7


Winner of the 2016 Governor General's Literary Award for Young People's Literature — Illustrated Books

Tokyo lives in a small house between giant buildings with his family and his cat, Kevin. For years, highways and skyscrapers have been built up around the family’s house where once there were hills and trees. Will they ever experience the natural world again?

One day, an old woman offers Tokyo seeds, telling him they will grow into whatever he wishes. Tokyo and his grandfather are astonished when the seeds grow into a forest so lush that it takes over the entire city overnight. Soon the whole city has gone wild, with animals roaming where cars once drove. But is this a problem to be surmounted, or a new way of living to be embraced?

With Tokyo Digs a Garden, Jon-Erik Lappano and Kellen Hatanaka have created a thoughtful and inspiring fable of environmentalism and imagination.

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the story.

Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

About the authors

Jon-Erik Lappano’s debut picture book, Tokyo Digs a Garden, illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka, won the Governor General’s Literary Award and was a finalist for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award and Japan’s Sakura Medal. Maggie’s Treasure, also illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka, was inspired by Jon-Erik’s young daughters and has received wide acclaim. Jon-Erik lives in Stratford, Ontario, with his family.


Jon-Erik Lappano's profile page

KELLEN HATANAKA is a designer and illustrator who lives in Stratford, Ontario, with his family. He has written and illustrated Work: An Occupational ABC (an ALA Notable Children’s Book) and Drive: A Look at Roadside Opposites. He also illustrated Tokyo Digs a Garden, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award.


Kellen Hatanaka's profile page


  • Long-listed, Green Earth Book Award
  • Short-listed, Sakura Award
  • Short-listed, TD Canadian Children's Literature Award
  • Commended, TD Summer Reading Club Top Recommended Reads
  • Short-listed, Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Children and Teens, starred selection
  • Commended, Toronto Public Library's First and Best List
  • Commended, CBC Best Books of 2016
  • Winner, Governor General's Literary Award, Young People's Literature – Illustrated Books

Editorial Reviews

The text is neither too simple nor too complex but just what is needed to relate this imaginative tale of environmentalism.

School Library Journal, review

Kids of all ages will respond to the deep messages embedded in the fertile soil of Tokyo Digs A Garden.

Midwest Book Review

TOKYO DIGS A GARDEN will resonate with many urban children and their parents who may seek the rural outdoors whenever possible.

CM Magazine

...fantastic...Highly recommended

Globe and Mail

In this haunting modern-day fairy tale from newcomer Lappano, nature, long pushed out of a city, pushes back.

Publishers Weekly

A challenging 21st-century fable sure to spark discussions.

Kirkus Reviews

The resulting absolutely delightful sustainability-manifesto is made even more stupendous with Hatanaka’s witty, entertaining, sly illustrations . . .


. . . a thing of beauty.

The New York Times

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Other titles by Kellen Hatanaka

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