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The Ugly Vegetables

Grace Lin

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin Published by Charlesbridge In the spring I helped my mother start our garden. We used tall shovels to turn the grass upside down, and I saw pink worms wriggle around. It was hard work. When we stopped to rest, we saw that the neighbors were starting their gardens, too. “Hello, Irma!” my mother called to Mrs. Crumerine. Mrs. Crumerine was digging, too. She was using a small shovel, one that fit in her hand. “Mommy,” I asked, “why are we using such big shovels? Mrs. Crumerine has a small one.” “Because our garden needs more digging,” she said. I helped my mother plant the seeds, and we dragged the hose to the garden. “Hi, Linda! Hi, Mickey!” I called to the Fitzgeralds. They were sprinkling water on their garden with green watering cans. “Mommy,” I asked, “why are we using a hose? Linda and Mickey use watering cans.” “Because our garden needs more water,” she said. Then my mother drew funny pictures on pieces of paper, and I stuck them into the garden. “Hello, Roseanne!” my mother called across the street to Mrs. Angelhowe. “Mommy,” I asked, “why are we sticking these papers in the garden? Mrs. Angelhowe has seed packages in her garden.” “Because our garden is going to grow Chinese vegetables,” she told me. “These are the names of the vegetables in Chinese, so I can tell which plants are growing where.” One day I saw our garden growing. Little green stems that looked like grass had popped out from the ground. “Our garden’s growing!” I yelled. “Our garden’s growing!” I rushed over to the neighbors’ gardens to see if theirs had grown. Their plants looked like little leaves. “Mommy,” I asked, “why do our plants look like grass? The neighbors’ plants look different.” “Because they are growing flowers,” she said. “Why can’t we grow flowers?” I asked. “These are better than flowers,” she said. Soon all the neighbors’ gardens were blooming. Up and down the street grew rainbows of flowers. The wind always smelled sweet, and butterflies and bees flew everywhere. Everyone’s garden was beautiful, except for ours.