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Sometimes only a quiet story will do, one with an ambling pace, gentle stakes, and—in the case of these graphic novels—beautiful art that lingers on lush environments. Set in gardens, forests, and other natural areas, these stories feature entrancing depictions of flowers, plants, and trees; light magic or fantasy; and warm connections between characters.
Hicotea. By Lorena Alvarez. Art by the author. 2019. Nobrow. Gr. 2–5.
While on a field trip to a local wetland, Sandy wanders away and finds an enchanted turtle shell, inside which is a fantastical museum showcasing the wetland’s wonders. Whimsical yet sharp artwork reveals the complex ecosystem of the landscape.
Pilu of the Woods. By Mai K. Nguyen. Art by the author. 2019. Oni. Gr. 2–5.
After Willow fights with her sister, she runs to the woods, where she meets Pilu, a girl whose head sprouts leaves. The pair talk about hard feelings and family as they trudge a path to Willow’s home. Dense scenes of forest flora are a gorgeous backdrop for this comic with an SEL angle.
The Sprite and the Gardener. By Joe Whit and Rii Abrego. Art by the authors. 2021. Oni. Gr. 7–10.
Wisteria, a garden sprite new to her neighborhood, secretly starts helping a hapless gardener. Will her new sprite friends help, too? The artwork steals the show here, with vibrant, stunning flowers, plants, and trees towering over the tiny sprites, each of whom cleverly resembles their botanical namesake.
Taproot. By Keezy Young. Art by the author. 2017. Lion Forge. Gr. 9–12.
Talented gardener Hamal, whose green thumb is a supernatural gift, can also speak to ghosts. Lush garden scenes in dense green and blue are in striking contrast to the spooky forests of the spirit world, but there’s no real peril here, and a burgeoning romance between Hamal and ghost Blue makes this even sweeter.
Tea Dragon Society. By Katie O’Neill. Art by the author. Oni. Gr. 3–6.
Greta is determined to learn the near-forgotten art of tea-dragon husbandry. O’Neill’s color palette glows with warmth, and the rounded shapes and dense forest scenes are softened further by the lack of sharp outlines. An inclusive cast of characters rounds out this winsome, heart-filled series starter.
Witchlight. By Jessie Zabarsky. Art by Jessi Zabarsky and Geov Chotou. 2020. Random/RH Graphic. Gr. 7–10.
Rounded figures and pastel tones contribute to the gently magical atmosphere of this comic, which follows merchant’s daughter Sanja and hardened witch Lelek as they traverse the forest together. Both Sanja and Lelek have secrets, but the story focuses more firmly on their growing companionship.
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