My first impression is "awesome!" This is a hard cover book with 34 pages of full color illustrations. When I say full color, I mean full color as a rainbow of colors coming blazing off the page! As you open the book, the author's introductory comments greet you, giving a brief and thought-provoking discussion of why botany is much better taught as a game, or couched in a children's book as a subversive attempt to entice readers to stop ignoring, and to start exploring, Nature.
I found the beginning of the the story a little hard to decipher. It starts with the beginning of time and the evolution of life on earth. Father Sun and Mother Moon love their little Earth child, and watch as it evolves. The process of evolution is described as a bubbling soup, out of which come all sorts of animals and complexity of life. Then, time becomes rain, and all life becomes a Great Tree which is submerged in the growing ocean of time, and only the tips of the branches of the Great Tree are above water, which are islands which represent the different families of plants. So you have to use your imagination. It is an interesting blend of the figurative and the factual for us to enjoy.
Once the stage is set, we meet Shanleya, and the story really begins. Shanleya is a young girl sent on a coming-of-age journey by her grandfather, to learn the secrets of the plants that provide food and medicine. It is easy to become immersed in Shanleya's world, following her canoe-paddling adventures though the eight different plant family "islands" which are presented in this book. I was surprised how easily the story flowed from one page to the next, full of little memory tricks to recognize and remember the different plants with which we come into contact with daily: herbs, vegetables, spices, flowers, bulbs, grasses, fruits, and seeds!
The science-y terms used in the book are few; even monocot and dicot are not that intimidating when they are used as the names for oceans on Shanleya's map, ie: the Dicotyledon Sea and the Monocotyledon Sea. In this way, facts are cunningly placed in the memory and, reinforced through repetition, create a learning experience without being tedious or boring. This is an inspired way to learn, especially in the field of botany where there are so many plants, and more discovered all the time.
Overall a very enjoyable book, a little treasure of tricks and techniques to recognize and remember eight of the largest plant families, presented in a manner that is roaring not snoring, AND with lots of very colorful and imaginative illustrations to reinforce the story. I give it 9.7 acorns out of ten.