“The Wonder of Wildflowers” by Anna Staniszewski; © 2020, Simon & Schuster Books for Young People. 192 pages
Stick a seed in the ground, cover it and keep it wet, and you know what happens.
In a few days, you might find something green sprout from the dirt. In a matter of weeks, you could be sniffing a flower or munching a vegetable. But first, you need to take care of the things you plant, even if — as in the new book “The Wonder of Wildflowers” by Anna Staniszewski — a little water isn’t going to be enough.
Mira was not like the other girls in her class.
Someday, she would be, but the paperwork wasn’t approved yet, though Mira’s mom had filled it out the second they got to Amberland. As soon as their papers came through, then Mira’s family would get their allotment of Amber, Mira would be like the popular girls, and everything would be fine.
In the meantime, she just had to hang on and hope that Krysta never stopped being her best friend. Without Krysta, who kept all the mean kids away and kept her from being teased too much, Mira didn’t know what she’d do.
Obviously, Krysta’s family had Amber — her father, after all, was the mayor of Amberland, and he was responsible for ensuring that rationing was followed. Amber was like magic, it could heal, it could strengthen a body and prolong life but nobody knew what would happen if it ran out.
Even if it did, it wouldn’t run out for Krysta’s family.
That was a secret Mira accidentally learned one afternoon: Krysta’s father had a hidden Amber well in a shed behind their house, which was not exactly legal. Even when Amber rationing became stricter and stricter, she knew she couldn’t tell because it would mean getting Krysta’s dad in trouble and the whole family would suffer.
But then she learned that a little boy near her house was suffering in a different way and Mira had to make a decision: the boy’s brother was in her class and he was weird ... but was that reason to withhold a life-saving liquid from a preschooler?
Looking at the big picture, “The Wonder of Wildflowers” is a great introduction to futuristic novels for your middle-schooler. This book has everything: good characters, a great setting, even a substance that artificially enhances humanity, to the consternation of some and the detriment of others.
What it doesn’t have is a lot of quick clarity.
It takes more than a dozen pages to make sense of what’s going on in the story here, and more than 20 pages are needed to totally grasp everything completely. That’s a slog for an adult and it causes lots of let’s-get-to-the-point mouth-twisting, but it might cause young readers to toss the book aside — which would be too bad.
Author Anna Staniszewski has a good story here, so if you bring this book home for your 8- to 13-year-old, be sure to remind them that patience is needed for best results. Like any good garden, grab “The Wonder of Wildflowers,” plant yourself, and see what grows.