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The Give and Take Garden

While out on their daily walk, a man and his dog discover what they think is a magical garden.

Photo of Andy Smallman
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This is Andy.

This is Bentsen.

Andy and Bentsen believe that the world is a wonderful place filled with special things for them, and anyone else, to find.

Every day, they go for a walk and find things.

Bentsen finds things with his nose that Andy can't see. Bentsen stops walking when he wants to smell something good.

Andy finds things with his eyes that he might miss if he and Bentsen walk too fast. He slows down so he can notice. Bentsen helps with this.

One day when Andy and Bentsen were out walking, Bentsen smelled a smell that was so wonderful to him that he not only stopped, he put all four of his paws into the ground as if to say, "I want us to stay right here right now." Andy stopped walking while Bentsen smelled the wonderful smell. Andy wondered what it was like to be able to smell like Bentsen could smell, and just what could be so wonderful that it would cause him to stop in his tracks.

When Bentsen was done smelling the wonderful smell, he and Andy started walking again. Suddenly, Andy saw something that made him stop in his tracks. It was a sign on a patch of ground. The sign said, "Give and Take Garden."

On the ground, around the sign, were lots of little toys, cars and trucks and plastic rings and marbles. There were lots of pretty little rocks, too, and some nice small plants. The patch of ground wasn't very big, but Andy could tell someone loved it very much.

Andy looked and looked at the Give and Take Garden. Bentsen smelled and smelled the Give and Take Garden. Both Andy and Bentsen were happy for having found the Give and Take Garden. They continued on their walk with a spring in their step.

That night, back at home, with Bentsen asleep at his side, Andy thought about the Give and Take Garden. He decided that it was a place for people to bring little toys they wanted someone else to have, and take little toys they found there that they wanted to have.

Andy knew right then and there that he and Bentsen would go back to the Give and Take Garden the next day and leave a little toy for someone else to have.

So the next day, Andy and Bentsen went out walking, this time with a destination in mind. Bentsen still slowed down to smell smells along the way, and Andy slowed down so Bentsen could smell the smells. But both Andy and Bentsen seemed to be walking a little faster.

They arrived at the Give and Take Garden. It looked just as magical as it had the day before. Andy saw the cars and trucks and plastic rings and marbles. Bentsen smelled the toys and the rocks and the plants. They were happy to be there.

From his pocket, Andy took out a red toy car that he wanted someone else to have. He put it down right next to the sign that said Give and Take Garden. Bentsen smelled the red toy car.

Andy then saw a plastic ring that he hadn't seen the day before. It was orange and made to fit a small finger or a big finger. On its top, it had a picture of a strong woman superhero. Andy decided he would take the ring. Andy put the ring on the little finger of his left hand, the same hand that he used to hold Bentsen's leash.

Together, Andy and Bentsen walked away from the Give and Take Garden, this time even happier than the day before.

Describe the intended vision for your early childhood book manuscript in 1-2 sentences

This would be the first in a series of books designed to help children recognize ordinary acts of kindness in their neighborhoods. Each book would involve Andy and Bentsen going on walks and discovering thoughtful and kind things, including actions.

Share your suggested book title

The Give and Take Garden

How has this book been informed by early childhood language development research and evidence? (response minimum 250 Characters)

We all need to feel safe, but the healthy development of children between the ages of 0-3 depend on it. During these first three years, young children develop an understanding of the world as either being a place they can trust to meet their needs or one in which the world feels unpredictable and arbitrary. Having a caregiver consistently read stories that include repetition and characters that are predictable and kind contribute to the children feeling the world is a safe place. As they develop, children this age also need to start feeling that they have some kind of control over their environment. Getting to choose books that feature consistent characters making good and kind choices help them with their blooming need for autonomy. Stories that include words that they know are coming help with their literacy.

Please describe any familiarity you may have with Philadelphia and its residents? (optional question)

My familiarity with Philadelphia is more related to its sports team, having long been a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers.

How have you crafted this manuscript to resonate with and/or reflect the experiences of those living in urban contexts? (optional question)

Yes, the story involves a man and a dog going on a walk in a neighborhood that can very easily be set in an urban context. Future books in the series could involve meeting other characters one might more commonly see in an urban setting.

Location: Country

Berkeley, CA - USA

Location: State or Department


Location: City


Website URL (optional question)

Tell us more about you / your team

I work to promote ordinary activities that awaken kindness, helping people connect to their true nature and increase peace in the world. I'm the founding director of the Puget Sound Community School, an independent middle & high school in Seattle designed to help children build on their strengths and nurture their intrinsic motivation. I stepped down from this position in June, 2018 after 24 years, excited to find new opportunities that invigorate and excite me. In 2011, I created Kind Living as a vehicle to promote the kindness content I've been creating since the 1990's. And in 2012, I created an online activity called "The Secret Agent of Compassion" in support of the internationally-known "Compassion Games." As a longtime educator and child advocate, as well as a parent who loved to read to his children from birth to well into their teens, I am excited to support any initiative that connects adults and children around reading.

Provide an example visual identity for a look and feel you might like to achieve. ( (optional question, 3-5 visuals)

I work with an artist by the name of Fish Astronaut (his artist name - I don't know him by any other) who is excited to illustrate this story. I've included five samples of his work here.

Multiple Choice - Have you been previously published (online, self-published, and print included)?

  • Yes

If yes, please list titles and publications.

I have had a number of articles published online, most notably on Medium. The most popular are: - "The Secret to Slowing Down Your Negative Reactions" - published on Change Your Mind, Change Your Life ( - "Reflecting on the Death of My Father-in-Law" - published in PS I Love You (

Do you have an agent?

  • No

How did you hear about the Challenge? (optional question)

  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • I am/we are creatives, writers, or artists

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Dawnnbooks .

A fantastic story about sharing.
A wonderful lesson for toddlers to learn.
Nicely done.