The Sprite and the Gardener

Oni. May 2021. 88p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781620109069.
Gr 4 Up–Once upon a time, sprites used ancestral wisdom to nurture all plant life—until humans began to dominate the landscape. The good-spirited sprites lost their purpose but gained an appreciation for the human gardeners’ yields. When Wisteria, who has magenta skin and wavy purple hair, arrives in Sylvan Trace, her fellow sprites fill her in on the best gardens to visit. Feeling shy, Wisteria finds herself in a barren garden, spying on Elena, a frustrated young gardener. Wisteria’s secret attempts to revive the youth’s morning glory result in a spectacular bloom that delights Elena. Thrilled, Wisteria continues experimenting with plant magic under the guise of darkness. When Elena learns of Wisteria’s existence, what happens next will change the relationship between sprites and humans forever. Based on an original one-page comic, this short but sweet, flora-filled fantasy emphasizes kindness and teamwork. Readers will enjoy the story’s blossoming friendships as well as the transformation of Elena’s garden. Varied panel shapes add visual interest, immersing readers in key moments. Warm, retro-vibe colors imbue this tale of magical realism with whimsy, and the book has an anime flavor, with exaggerated facial expressions. Wisteria and the other sprites also possess unique character elements (hair, skin tone, attire) that mirror the plant they are each named after—an understated but charming touch. Elena is brown-skinned, while the sprites’ skin tones are in a variety of vibrant hues.
VERDICT Positive and uplifting, this magical read will delight lovers of fairies and plants alike. Hand this one to those who loved K. O’Neill’s The Tea Dragon Society.

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