Home Sweet Neighborhood: Transforming Cities One Block at a Time

Imagonna get a couple of minor criticisms outta the way first, and then we’ll get to the good stuff: Mulder oversimplifies here and there in some stage-setting passages, and young readers would have been well-served by a gentle warning that no matter how good one’s plans may be, bureaucracy can be an insurmountable hurdle. That said, this book is chockablock with really neat anecdotes about imaginative grassroots efforts to improve communities, and kiddos shouldn’t be deterred by those pesky grown-up ordinances from at least presenting a proposal (because some would definitely require city hall’s permission). That kind of civic experience is valuable in and of itself. There are (literally) small projects like “pothole parks,” the brainchild of Londoner Steve Wheen: he created a miniature scene in a gap in a neighborhood sidewalk, much to the delight of pedestrians. And there are huge undertakings, like the closing of nearly a mile of an expressway in Paris and covering it with sand to make a riverfront beach. Two million people used it for sunbathing and strolling throughout the summer of 2002! Mulder’s examples come from all over the world, illustrating the unifying desire for fellowship and fun. Sharp photos of completed projects and others in progress abound, along with factoids and first-person stories of how impactful creative kindness can be. One of my favorite transformations is the temporary “green space” some people make out of their downtown parking spots – they roll out a little artificial turf, place a bench on it, fill the meter, and leave the tiny oasis for passers-by to enjoy for a few hours. How awesome is that? This book shows kids that good can happen in the most surprising — and whimsical — ways.

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