“In the distant, distant past, sprites were the caretakers of life. With an array of mysterious, wondrous powers… and alliances and knowledge passed down for generations… they were the sole keepers of the flora that they relied on” — Narration, The Sprite and the Gardener, n. pag.
|Rii Abrego and Joe Whitt (authors), Rii Abrego (illustrator), Crank! (letterer)
|Environmental Themes and Issues
|Wisteria: A pink-skinned female sprite (Nonhuman/Fantasy Creature)
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency
|Level 3: Moderate, Plot-Driven Environmental Agency
|Middle Grade (8-12 years)
|Fictional town of Sylvan Trace
Rii Abrego and Joe Whitt’s graphic novel The Sprite and the Gardener depicts humans and sprites–a fantastical species of small, winged, human-like creatures–working together in harmony to take care of gardens. In the distant past, the sprites used their magical powers and generations of knowledge to carefully tend for the plants that they consume. However, their role changed after humans began to dominate the landscape, shifting from primary caretaker to invisible observer. In the comic’s opening pages, creators Rii Abrego and Joe Whitt write, “Humans built a town. And in that town… those humans became keepers of gardens. Every plant is now meticulously grown by their hands. And so, the sprites who once watched over the greenery, they… well, the sprites are still here, actually. And things are still just fine” (n. pag.). In their new roles, the sprites observe passively as the humans tend their gardens, though the comic presents this relationship as a harmonious co-habitation of the land rather than depicting the sprites suffering as the humans alter their habitats.
The comic centers on Wisteria, a young female sprite with pink skin and purple hair who moves to the town of Sylvan Trace. While exploring the local gardens, Wisteria discovers Elena, an aspiring young gardener who cannot properly care for the plants in her mother’s garden, despite her earnest efforts. Defying sprite tradition, Wisteria uses her magical powers to save plants that Elena has accidentally overwatered, delighting the girl. As Wisteria continues to tend to the garden, Elena adds more plants to her backyard, believing that her own skill has caused the plants to flourish. One day, Elena discovers Wisteria in the garden. Though she is initially disappointed to discover that her gardening skills aren’t improving, Elena decides to work together with Wisteria to care for the plants. Wisteria also persuades other local sprites to join their efforts, and more humans learn about the existence of the sprites. The narrative concludes with Elena surprising her mother with the rejuvenated garden.
This gentle fantasy narrative celebrates gardening and nature, depicting the process of growing plants as awe-inspiring and rewarding. Additionally, by depicting Wisteria recruiting other sprites and humans to improve the gardens, The Sprite and the Gardener promotes forms of community action that create green spaces and enable humans to live more harmoniously with nature.