The Secret Wild
Alex Evelyn, illustrated by George Ermos
How super to have an adventure that revolves around plants.
Ten year old Fern Featherstone is, according to her father, an overly curious child. She has spent most of her time travelling the world with her botanist parents and has accrued a fair bit of information about plants, many of which she talks to, but her father disapproves of non-theoretical knowledge. As the story begins, Fern and her parents are in the Amazonian rainforest; but after a mishap her parents decide to send her to London to live with Uncle Ned: after all she’s never had a friend or been to school like other children her age. This is something about which Fern is far from happy; but then on the plane, she finds herself unexpectedly in possession of a strange small plant – one that can understand her – her very first friend.
Once at Uncle Ned’s, she learns of strange happenings in London’s public places: a spate of unusual plants appearing from nobody knows where, growing destructively large, disrupting people’s lives and even causing seismic tremors. The following morning, feeling uprooted Fern wanders into the city, meets neighbour and plant phobic Woody. But when her plant – she’s named it Special – starts getting weaker, she only has this strange boy to ask for help to locate the botanist woman from whom she acquired it.
It’s not long before Fern discovers that this woman – Oleander, as she tells Fern to call her – has nightmarish plans and that her so called ‘green revolution’ must be stopped before time runs out.
There are so many things to love about this debut novel: the main protagonist who lives life on her terms, her lovable author Uncle Ned whose main skill apart from writing is toast-making; Fern’s friend in need, jigsaw-puzzle loving Woody, the way in which both scientific knowledge and London landmarks are woven into the story, the use of plant names for many of the characters, not forgetting that botanist turned villain and the whole thing is sprinkled with humour. With a fab. cover by George Ermos whose plant drawings grow around each new chapter page, it’s a book that will wind its tendrils around you and not unfurl them until you reach the end.