By Summer Edward
The Wonder of the World Leaf by Summer Edward, illustrated by Sayada Ramdial, is on sale now.
Eight years ago, I wrote a story, not having the slightest clue that it would sprout into the world as a book during a global pandemic.
Back then, I was living in a rowhouse apartment in Philadelphia and longing for the very things that many of us are yearning for now: community, nature, a simpler life. So I went back to Trinidad (the island, not the town in Cuba), where I grew up, and during the three months I spent there, I wrote a story about the wonder, and the possibility, and the timeless healing power of those things.
In the story, Wygenia, a young girl living in Trinidad, discovers a medicinal plant so powerful it’s called ‘Wonder of the World.’ And in case you’re wondering, yes, there’s a real plant (also known as kalanchoe pinnata) that goes by that name. Not only does the Wonder of the World plant possess unusual healing properties, but it’s also one of the few plants that can be propagated from a leaf, as opposed to from a seed or cuttings, or through grafting. In this unlikely way, Wygenia cultivates a Wonder of the World plant so that she can make bush medicine, hoping to cure her sick Grannie. Wygenia’s sensitivity to the suffering of others, and her hopeful wonder, end up drawing her community together.
In the same way, I hope the story draws folks together whenever it’s read. I hope it draws you, dear reader, a little closer to wonder, a little closer to nature, a little closer to what truly matters. I hope it helps you remember the balm, perhaps even the cure, that we’re all searching for in these times: community, nature, the simple things in all their undeniable power.
As someone who gardens as a form of therapy and who can’t live without a daily dose of nature, I feel like The Wonder of the World Leaf is a story cultivated on a bare plot of my soul. What I love about Wygenia is that she’s a child who looks out for the well-being of others. Not only that—Wygenia is somehow able to make the connection between her own wellbeing, the wellbeing of others, and the wellbeing found in nature.
At the beginning of the pandemic, when my editor and I first began editing the story, an aunt in Trinidad gifted me a baby Wonder of the World plant out of the blue. She’d heard I was working on the book and wanted me to have the plant from her yard. Bush medicine, in its many forms, is deeply valued in Caribbean communities, and in Trinidad and Tobago’s oral culture, the Wonder of the World’s healing properties are almost legendary, but I’d never actually seen a real-life plant. Now there it was, right in front of me. Hope, it turns out, is not the thing with feathers; it’s the thing with gentle-green curvy-edged leaves.
During the pandemic, the plant gifted to me by my perspicacious aunt has been a recipient of my dutiful care. Its daily upkeep and our regular plant-human conversations became a grounding routine. As the world spiraled, the plant has sprouted, and given forth, and taken up space. And somehow, in writing the story, revising it countless times over the years, and editing it in the midst of so much uncertainty, I too have sprouted, and given forth, and taken up space—miraculously.
And that’s why, looking at the capacious kalanchoe pinnata plant sitting in my yard now, keenly aware of all the healing stories it holds, Wygenia’s story included, I feel like I am in the presence of a true wonder of the world. I feel lucky, that through the miracle of a book, I get to share that wonder with readers.
Obviously, my aunt is a great gift-giver.
The Wonder of the World Leaf is one of the titles in the Collins Big Cat Caribbean series, which features homegrown, authentic children’s stories by Caribbean writers and illustrators. Sayada Ramdial is a Trinidadian illustrator based in Tucson and when I first saw her artwork for the book, it felt like the answer to a prayer I didn’t even know I had uttered. Thank you Sayada for treating Wygenia and her one little hopeful leaf with such care. The book is suffused with comfort and a bright clarity thanks to your art, and I am forever grateful.
Join Summer Edward on a blog tour for The Wonder of the World Leaf!
Summer Edward is a Gingko Prize longlisted Trinidadian-American author who writes for children and adults. Her children’s book debut, The Wonder of the World Leaf, was published by HarperCollins UK/Collins Big Cat on April 11, 2021. She has worked with HarperCollins, Candlewick Press, Heinemann, Peepal Tree Press, and University Press of Mississippi. She created Anansesem, an online magazine covering Caribbean literature for young readers, which was published for a decade. When she is not writing, she works as a children’s fiction editor at Heinemann, a readers’ advisory specialist at EBSCOHost Novelist, and reviews Caribbean children’s and young adult books for The Horn Book Magazine. Born in the Caribbean island of Trinidad, Summer grew up in Trinidad and Philadelphia and currently divides her time between Trinidad and the U.S. To learn more about Summer and her books visit www.summeredward.com or add her on Goodreads.