This is a Middle Grade SciFi book about gardening. Actually it is about escape from totalitarian regimes and a return to fresh food and freedom of choice to grow it, but on the surface it is just about 12 year old Clare, her seven year old brother Dante and their friends Lily (same age as Clare) and Ana, who is substantially older – kind of my age. Their adventure is about growing food – in secret.
Seed Savers is what I believe in. In S Smith’s world, food choice has long gone, since the corporate agribusinesses managed to hoodwink governments into belief in factory farming on a national scale, using genetically modifed crops. Furthermore it has prohibited the preservation of biodiversity and natural selection in food plants that keeps us with robust strains likely to adapt to climate change and weather patterns, pests and diseases, and, most importantly, enable people to save their seeds year after year to provide for the future. Ana, a volunteer at the after-school club at the church, is dedicated to passing her seed-saving knowledge on to the next generation. and resorts to using passages from the Bible as a good method of teaching people that have never heard of fruit or vegetables, since all their food comes in blocks of goodness (hmmph) from Stores. The Bible has many references to stewardship of the land and saving seeds, and God providing the fruits for people to use (the Koran seems to be good on Allah providing fruits, too) and religion, or at least church attendance, is still encouraged in this world.
S Smith outlines these societal changes as we meet the people who rebel, still, against the consequences of these disastrous government actions. Except she does it much better than I would, since I can’t help jumping on my campaigning bandwagon when I write about this sort of thing. She writes it in an engaging and gripping style. I made myself put the book down a third of the way through, to take a breather, since I was scared of what was going to happen. Then I couldn’t wait to pick it up again, and I finished it in one sitting.
In Clare and Dante we have beautifully crafted characters, and Dante just keeps pulling out surprises as he has wisdom beyond his years – or maybe he just gains it through their journey.
It’s a story in three parts – Clare, Dante and Lily discovering about plants through Ana’s covert teaching; the escape into another grim society, and the journey to another, freer place. I was hooked into all three parts. It’s a lovely story with lots of bright ideas from the kids and twists and turns in the adventure.
I’m looking forward to the next in the series. Meanwhile I will save my bean, carrot, tomato, courgette, cucumber, salsify, coriander, parsley and fennel seeds, check my membership of Garden Organic and the Real Seed Company (you have to be a member – for 1 penny – to get past the EU rules on seed certification) and I’ll plant two concentric circles of purple flowers as a sign to other seed savers.
Everyone should read this book. Especially if they aren’t sure how the food in their stores comes to be there.