REVIEW: ‘Sprite and the Gardener’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sprite and the Gardener - But Why Tho?

Sprite and the Gardener is a beautiful comic written by Rii Abrego and Joe Whitt, illustrated by Rii Abrego, lettered by Crank!, and published by Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group. The children’s graphic novel is the story of Wisteria, a new sprite in the neighborhood, as she learns the magic of teamwork and change.

I adore the immediate way that Sprite and the Gardener sets up its world. It’s not a traditional story of nature spirits bemoaning the urbanization of their natural world. Rather, the sprites have accepted that humans no longer need them to help their gardens bloom and have become content to laze about instead. Everyone except for Wisteria, who can’t keep herself from helping a derelict garden and its inexperienced gardener. It gives her such joy, both the beauty of the plants and the happiness of the gardener as her plants thrive for the first time.

It’s the type of story where the dialogue is there for framing, but the art is really telling the story. I found myself somewhat confused at first because I was paying too much attention to the text. The other sprites want to be friends with Wisteria, but they’re too much in their own world. It’s not a bullying circumstance by any means, though, or an intention to exclude her. They simply aren’t connecting. When I stopped over-analyzing the dialogue and paying more attention to the art, and the characters’ expressions, I was able to recognize this and really appreciate that Sprite and the Gardener was showing its readers that sometimes friendships just take time.

The art is beautiful as a whole; the designs of the sprites, their different body types, and colors are utterly endearing. It feels like there is this inversion of the colors between the background and foreground. The characters are all shaded dark with fairly heavy lines, while the backgrounds are lighter. It really adds to the ethereal feeling of the whole graphic novel. As far as fairy and nature imagery goes, the coloring and style here are solid.

As a story whose art is doing as much if not more of the talking than the text, it’s great how expressive the sprites and the gardener are and how many pages have few if any words on them. Frequently the book had me feeling wistful for not getting to spend more time gardening with my own friends just through the power of its imagery. I could feel what it would feel like to get to work together to grow a garden, as cheesy as it sounds, but the art really was that transformative.

I also really admire the book’s ultimate theme that sometimes change is good. So often, stories about nature and fantasy are about the destruction and disrespect humanity has towards nature. Here, change is not only accepted as a natural part of the world but something that can be embraced if we are just willing to embrace it. The ending had me tearing up as it was equal parts sweet and uplifting. The lettering for the narration, in the beginning, was a tad hard to read in its fancy script, but it wasn’t the primary font, and by the time it returned, in the end, to close out the book, I appreciated how it made it feel like a fairy tale ending.

Sprite and the Gardener is a lovely graphic novel with beautiful art and a beautiful set of morals. It will leave you feeling fulfilled and yearning to grow a garden with some friends.

Sprite and the Gardener is available physically May 11th and digitally May 26th.

Sprite and the Gardener
5

TL;DR

Sprite and the Gardener is a lovely graphic novel with beautiful art and a beautiful set of morals. It will leave you feeling fulfilled and yearning to grow a garden with some friends.