THE WONDER OF WILDFLOWERS
Written by Anna Staniszewski
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
192 Pages Age 8—12
Genre: Middle Grade Book, Fantasy
Themes: Acceptance, Immigration, Magic
My family came to this country when I was five years old, but now we’re so close to becoming citizens. This means we’ll finally be able to use Amber like everyone else. Then I will be as special as the rest of my classmates, the ones who were born here with magic already in their veins.
But most of all, no one will compare me to Daniel anymore. Daniel who doesn’t even try to fit in, who seems proud of being an outsider.
Once I take my first sip of Amber, I will be on the inside. I hope. (from back cover)
“There’s nothing worse than being “it.” We’ve been playing tag at recess for days, and no matter what I do, I can’t catch any of the other kids.”
Why I like The Wonder of Wildflowers
The town of Westbrook is in Amberland, a nation that found Amber and learned of its magical capabilities. When ingested in small amounts, Amber enhances your abilities, makes you stronger, and improves the immune system. It is extremely rare for any of the kids to miss school. Amberland residents have been using Amber so long they have dried up several wells forcing cities to ration. This rationed amount gets lower as the city’s allotment lowers and the residents are not happy. Many take to the streets to protest the rationing and the immigrants—the foreigners—who they feel are the cause of the rationing (even though noncitizens do not get any rations of Amber).
Mira’s family moves to Westbrook for her mother’s work (in the Amber research lab). Mira is the shortest and the least athletic kid in class, and the only ne not using Amber. The other kids have taken Amber since birth, which puts Mira at a disadvantage. Just as Mira’s family become citizens and receive ration cards, the wells of Amber are drying out. The mayor’s announcement of stricter rations causes fear and anger in many people; but some become so angry they commit hate crimes.
Mira’s world is full of hot button topics. Immigration, citizenship, corruption, hate crimes, protesting, and bullying are all in this wonderful story. Mira has been trying to find her place in Westbrook and the school since her family arrived five years ago. She is afraid Amber will not work for her yet feels it must if she is to be as capable as the other kids are and finally fit in. As the story progresses, so does Mira’s view of Amber and the people she thought she knew. Though not addressed in the story, Amber is psychologically addictive for many people. They are afraid to live without Amber. Even Mira acts out of character with her rations, simply to fit in with her friends.
The Wonder of Wildflowers will intrigue kids who read it. Set as a middle grade fantasy, the story is a good fit for those older than age twelve. Author Anna Staniszewski does a great job putting all the pieces together and many will be surprised at the defining moment for the town and the mayor. Narrated by Mira, we are privy to her thoughts as she tries to fit in and then as she learns a few secrets. Since Ms. Staniszewski based The Wonder of Wildflowers on her own immigration story (without the Amber), Mira’s thoughts and feelings as an outsider are truth-based.
I really enjoyed reading The Wonder of Wildflowers, but it went by much too fast. This is definitely a read-in-one-sitting story. The school kids are a good mix of different origin countries; their last names give away many ethnicities. Mira’s father, Tata, is, for me, the standard-bearer. He refuses to use Amber feeling he is already his best; and he likes himself as he is. Tata is a doctor, but may no longer practice medicine in Amberland. (Not that Westbrook needs doctors. The local hospital has one doctor and the main protocol is Amber.) There is much to laugh at in the story, so please so not think this is a gloomy tale. It is far from gloomy. It is hopeful, eye opening, and simply enjoyable. There are so many topics able to spark discussions in The Wonder of Wildflowers that this book needs to be in school libraries, classrooms, and at home (homeschooling parents pick up this book and read with your child(ren).
If you read only one book this year, The Wonder of Wildflowers should be that book.
Two scenes stand out for me as favorites. (Actually many, but I can’t tell you the whole story, can I?)
After practicing an athletic dance routine during recess, Mira returns to class with her bangs stuck to her forehead. Eileen, another of the dancers, asks Mira, “Did you, like, wet your hair or something?” Mira mumbles (she is embarrassed), “It’s sweat.” Eileen replies, “Oh right! Sometimes I forget that you’re, like, not from here.”
The other scene is similar in that it shows the naivety of those used to Amber keeping them healthy. After cutting rations, some of the kids start missing school for the first time in their young lives. I can only imagine how horrible and confusing a cold or the flu would be to these sheltered kids. The local hospital, with its one doctor and one nurse, become overwhelmed with the number of people stacked up in the emergency room, triage, and waiting area. The doctor has probably never seen so many sick people in his (or her) entire career.
The Author’s Note is a must read. Here you will understand how the story came to be and why the citizens of Amberland take their magical Amber daily. Ms. Staniszewski openly speaks of her own immigration and how she and Mira are alike and different. Don’t pass it by.
Available at Amazon
THE WONDER OF WILDFLOWERS. Copyright © 2020 by Anna Staniszewski. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, NY.
Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
[I am an Amazon affiliate. When you purchase through a link on KLR, you are supporting Kid Lit Reviews. For each sale, KLR makes a small commission, which costs you nothing extra. This is an easy way to show your support for this site, without using your own money. For each commission received, I gratefully thank you.]