Reviews /

Ghost Orchid

Authored by Fiona Lumbers
Illustrated by Fiona Lumbers
Published by Anderson Press

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Ghost Orchid is a gentle and beautifully illustrated story, perfect for KS1 readers, as it follows a family of explorers who set off for an adventure to find the rare flower – the ghost orchid.

At its heart this is a romantic tale and children will delight in the fact that it is Ava who notices things, while her parents ‘don’t think about anything else’. While her parents focus only on the task at hand – to find the rare flower – Ava thrives from the journey itself and children are bound to enjoy noticing all the animals that Ava encounters while her parents are busy looking at the map. The illustrations are brightly coloured and captivating as they show all the splendour of the wildlife. Readers will be absorbed in searching for the animals in the backgrounds – while for example, Ava plays with the large pink flamingos (unnoticed by her parents who are striving ahead only interested in their mission) the attentive reader may well also notice the small frog in the left-hand corner.

The story gives ample opportunities for further discussions. I spent a very contented half an hour or so googling the Ghost Orchid – also known apparently as a White Frog Orchid – and I’m sure children would gain much from this activity too. The end papers were also appealing, not least because the post it notes over the map of the world which give facts about the flowers are replaced in the final end papers with the pictures Ava took/drew on the journey. The pathway drawn over the map also gives enough information to show what part of the world the flowers are found in, but the exact locations are pleasingly cut off, as we only see the first paragraph of the parents’ letter from the ‘Society of Explorers’ asking them to embark on their trip. Readers could chart the journey Ava and her family take as they encounter the Northern Lights (with only Ava asking, ‘what’s that light?’) as they camp overnight, before heading south through North America.

The Romanticism of the journey is added to by the feeling that this is a family who seem to belong in an earlier time and teachers may well discuss this with readers. Ava’s parents are absorbed with maps rather than satellites, the Society of Explorers send a letter rather than an email, the acknowledgements are illustrated on an old-fashioned postcard, there’s not a screen of any kind in sight and planes are completely absent as they opt for sea travel and a long walk.

By the end of the story, mum and dad have learnt to explore ‘the Ava way’ as the family are illustrated together looking on at the wonders of the wildlife they encounter. This story has great potential in the classroom and it will make a perfect end of the day story. That said, I would probably start the day with this tale, as not only will it inspire discussions and activities about geography and nature but it will open up a more general conversation about what children notice while adults are busy. This story is, amongst everything else, an important reminder to adults to champion and listen to the voices of the young!