Daisy Thistledown, aged eleven, is in search of her mother, a distinguished botanist who has disappeared on a dangerous trip to the Amazon rainforest. Shadowy evil figures are behind her abduction, but Daisy has one powerful ace up her sleeve. This is a glass paperweight enclosing a perfect dandelion clock, a parting present from her mother. Once utilised it enables her to enter the dazzling new world of Greenwild, existing side by side with our own day to day Greyside. Greenwild by contrast is only open to those with magical access through a door hidden away in Kew Gardens. Here nature itself is alive, playing a leading part by offering transport, first aid and last-minute rescue when it is most needed. With the help of all this plus a kitten, a botanical genius and a boy who can talk to birds, Daisy sets about first finding and then rescuing her mother in this most satisfying reversal or normal family roles.
There is perhaps a temptation when writing a first children’s novel to emulate previously tried and tested plots and characters, and this sometimes shows in these pages. There is really no need to resurrect once again the image of a mean, granite-faced ‘angular’ school matron ‘with arms like a praying mantis.’ Working with children is hard enough without having to fight off dreary old stereotypes from the past. Elsewhere nice characters once again have twinkling eyes while nasty ones generally glint behind lop-sided smiles. Once the author gets into nature in all its variety her writing takes on a new strength, and young readers will surely never see Kew Gardens in the same light again. There is a strong ecological message here too. Two more adventures involving Daisy’s adventures are planned. This one is a good start but could be even better.