A long time ago, sprites used to care for the gardens of earth, working with magic and skill to tend and grow. When humans came and built a town in the sprites’ home, things didn’t change—much. The humans seemed to do just fine on their own, so the sprites settled back to watch, feeling they were no longer needed.
Years have passed and a new sprite has come to town. Wisteria feels left out by the close friendships of the other sprites and their knowledge of the area, so she goes looking around on her own and finds a neglected, dying garden. Intrigued by the young human who is trying to tend it, Wisteria starts to use her own magic and skill to make the garden bloom. But what will happen when the human, Elena, discovers Wisteria?
This simple fable of community and gardening is lushly illustrated. Red and purple tones predominate, with Wisteria and her fellow sprites showing a range of skin colors, from reddish-purple (Wisteria) to dark purple, pale green, and peach. Their body types vary also, from the more “traditional” sylph-like fairies and small, chubby children to non-gendered sprites, full, robust bodies, and a plethora of hair styles. Wisteria is small and plump, with full, ruffled skirts and cloak and a mass of wildly curling, pale violet hair. Her eyes are often shown wide with wonder and shining with stars as she observes the growth of the plants and the excitement of Elena. Elena herself has short, dark hair and brown skin and the final images of the story, showing the whole neighborhood, include a diverse range of humans and sprites.
At less than 100 pages, this is a brief, charming story. There’s little action or emotion, with the real draw being the detailed botanical illustrations and the charming variety of the sprites. It’s a gentle, comforting story that will be appreciated by readers who want something lovely to feast their eyes on. Oni Press and several journals say this is aimed at teens, but there’s really no reason it can’t be, as School Library Journal suggestions, for 4th grade and up. There is certainly nothing that could be deemed inappropriate for younger readers, but perhaps it will take a more mature reader, of any age, to appreciate the quiet beauty of growing things and the joy of building a community in a new place.
The Sprite and the Gardener
By Rii Abrego, Joe Whitt,
Art by Jennifer Wharton
NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)