the sprite and the gardener

While I’m not much of a gardener myself (more of a houseplant hoarder), I love to enjoy other peoples’ gardens! I also love to take flower and book photos, as my Instagram account proves. My uncle has a fabulous garden, and he generously offered me some of his flowers for my photos this week – and that reminded me that I had a fetching little graphic novel on my to-read list: Rii Abrego and Joe Whitt’s The Sprite and the Gardener. It turned out to be charming and gentle, and I have decided that I want to be a sprite when I grow old, if only for the fabulous clothes and wings!

Long, long ago, sprites were the caretakers of gardens. Every flower was grown by their hand. But when humans appeared and began growing their own gardens, the sprites’ magical talents soon became a thing of the past. When Wisteria, an ambitious, kind-hearted sprite, starts to ask questions about the way things used to be, she’ll begin to unearth her long-lost talent of gardening. But her newly honed skills might not be the welcome surprise she intends them to be. 

The Sprite and the Gardener, the debut graphic novel by Joe Whitt and Rii Abrego, is bursting with whimsical art and vibrant characters. Join our neighborhood of sprites in this beautiful, gentle fantasy where both gardens and friendships begin to blossom.

Wisteria is new in town, and finding it difficult to fit in with the other sprites of Sylvan Trace. They’re all very close-knit, and talk about people and places she either barely knows or doesn’t know at all. She wanders away from one of these get-togethers and into a mess of a backyard one day, and decides to help a drooping bloom out – after all, sprites were the original caretakers of plant life before the humans moved in! When the human gardener trying to revive the garden sees Wisteria’s work, the story really begins, and it one about making new, unexpected friends, the power of teamwork, and reconnecting with the natural world.


The focus of this graphic novel is squarely on the visuals, and to be completely fair, they are *stunning*. Rii Abrego’s plant-forward art and adorable sprites (small fairy-type creatures with enormous, detailed eyes!) take center stage, and while there is a storyline, I found myself saying “plot?? what plot?” a couple of times. The book begins with a vague introduction to the origins and history of sprites – that portion reads like a fable, and a little wink to the audience about what is really going on here (it’s fostering harmony and plant-growing!). The common threads throughout are those of sprites reconnecting with their former flower magic, and humans reconnecting with their families and former hobbies. It’s a soothing, simple, one-note story, and that’s okay – just don’t go in expecting too much complexity. Also, what it may lack in detail it makes up for in enchanting visuals!


Let’s talk about that art a little more! It’s lovingly-detailed and vibrant, in what I would call a strong pastel palette of colors (does that make sense??): pinks, purples, teals, yellows, and soft oranges and greens and blues. Abrego’s art relies on precise linework, color contrasts, and color coordination. There are very few shadows and prints, and almost everything that isn’t a flower is one solid color. This imbues the art with a flat feel that pairs well with its vintage subject matter (round little fairies caring for flowers!) and lettering. I can also see this art eventually being collected in a gorgeous coloring book – the color choices Abrego makes are amazing, but I’m sure fans would love to make their own color choices as well.


In all, The Sprite and the Gardner is a feast for the eyes, and a quiet story for fairy- and flower-lovers of all ages, and for anyone who has been looking for a graphic novel with Studio Ghibli-slash-The Secret Garden vibes.


Recommended for: fans of #cottagecore, those who loved of Katie O’Neill’s Tea Dragon Society series, and anyone who loves intricate art, flowers, fairies, and gardening mythos.


Fine print: I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher for review consideration. I did not receive any compensation for this post.


Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Awww this sounds very cute and sweet! I have regulated my expectations and do not anticipate much plot. :P

April (BooksandWine) said...

Oh I love cottage core and nice visuals. Sounds like this is a good one to wind down and relax with!!

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