Greenwild: The World Behind the Door (Book #1)

Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

“Daisy felt all around her the unmistakeable atmosphere of Mallowmarsh on the breeze: of cool water and silver birches and plum trees, the tang of rich and concentrated green magic that had built up in one place for centuries. She was almost dizzy with it. How could she have not sensed it before?”

After Daisy’s journalist mother travels to investigate sinister disappearances in the Amazon, then disappears herself, Daisy escapes pursuers by following the light from her father’s dandelion key—which opens a way into Mallowmarsh, a magical Kew Gardens. There she finds refuge, friends, and astonishing beauty as she learns about the magic of plants and the Greenwild tucked into pockets of our world. But someone is trying to destroy the Greenwild—and they need Daisy’s dandelion key to let them in.

The breathtaking plant descriptions in the first volume of Pari Thomson’s Greenwild series, enhanced by Elisa Paganelli’s stunning illustrations, can dispel readers’ plant blindness while demonstrating the joys of conservation. Although Daisy has green magic that causes plants to help her in crises, she struggles to use that magic consciously; first, she must learn to “pay attention” to plants, “feel for them with the fingertips of your mind” until she senses “threads of energy, silk-thin, coiling up from the mound of dirt” (329). The plant-centered schooling in Mallowmarsh (plus Daisy’s unauthorized adventures with lightning seeds, size-shrinking seeds, and parakeets) dispels this form of climate ignorance, developing her climate literacy and understanding of biodiversity as she wonders at Mallowmarsh’s species richness.

The book is fertile soil for inspiring conservation, celebrating a real-world botanical garden and inclusively portraying characters of various ages, ethnicities, and talents each doing their bit as “custodians of a world of Botanical wonders” (91), whether they are building a seedbank, researching plants, or preparing food. Their philosophy of “thinking about what we can do for nature—not just what it can do for us” (91) contrasts with the villains’ planned biodiversity loss to increase the price of what survives. Thomson makes the larger struggle to protect nature realistically hard: Daisy’s mother’s disappearance in the Amazon pays tribute to Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips (the indigenist and journalist murdered there in 2022 while investigating illegal fishing, logging, and drug trafficking in indigenous reserves), and Thomson’s worldbuilding choice of Greenwild “pockets” gestures to problems with small, isolated areas saved by conservation. To alleviate eco-anxiety and other fears, Greenwild calls us to connect with plants: “Planting a seed is an act of hope. It means you have faith in the future. Think of that hope: hold it steady, and don’t let go” (155).

©2024 ClimateLit (Catherine Olver)


Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books, 2023

Pages: 390

ISBN: 978-1035015733

Audience: Questers (8-13)

Format: Novels

Topics: Biodiversity, Biodiversity Loss, Climate Ignorance, Climate Literacy, Conservation, Eco-anxiety, Plant Blindness, Plants