Graphic Novel Rec #12: The Sprite and the Gardener

Creators: Rii Abrego & Joe Whitt

Publisher: Oni Press

“And things are still just fine. More or less.”

This is how Abrego & Whitt set up The Sprite and the Gardener. This book has been described as “gentle fantasy” which means a fantasy story that doesn’t involve fighting or violence of any kind. If you’ve read The Tea Dragon Society, then you’re familiar with this genre.

In The Sprite and the Gardener we learn that sprites used to be the caretakers of all flora, but then humans took over as the keepers of gardens. So, what are the sprites to do? This story follows Wisteria who wants to help humans tend to their gardens. Will things work out? You’ll have to read the story to find out.

You could read this story at a surface level, but if you look closer you’ll find a deeper story. Abrego & Whitt weave a story that teaches the theme that “Change can be good.” That just because something is different doesn’t mean that it’s bad. As this is a quick read, I could see children reading it multiple times to get to deeper interpretations of the text.

The character designs of the sprites are flora-influenced. I imagine aspiring illustrators doodling their own designs of sprites after begin inspired by Abrego & Whitt’s characters. What would a tulip inspired sprite look like? A dandelion sprite?

Abrego & Whitt are also creative when it comes to page layout. They are thoughtful in the way they use irregular panel shapes and borderless panels to infuse scenes with energy and emotion. Their choice of frames also help make their pages dynamic. They shift quickly from long-distance, medium, and close-up shots of moments. I hope to see more work by both of these creators soon.

“But times have changed since then. And things are just fine. In fact, they’re better than ever.

Teaching Considerations:

  • Genre: gentle fantasy
  • Units of Study: Fantasy, Fiction
  • Grades: 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade

Published by Eric Hand

I'm an educator and literacy professional with a long-standing passion for comic books and graphic novels.

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