The Illustrated Herbiary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Bewitching Botanicals

Maia Toll, illus. by Kate O’Hara. Storey, $19.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-61212-968-6

In this delightful debut, wellness coach Toll relies on her imagination to spin a fun botanical mythology. Never aiming to share functional information about herbs (or even to document traditional magical uses), Toll jumps straight into “fanciful descriptions and symbolic flights of fancy” from her personal experiences and lively imagination to offer prompts for introspection into the natural world. Toll gives each plant a focusing sobriquet or guidance—thyme is “Distill Your Self,” yarrow is “Pocket of Protection”—and then anthropomorphizes the (always female) sprout with a personality and lesson to teach, such as “know the microworld” and “move toward your truth.” Each plant is associated with a solo ritual activity (most do not actually use plant material), reflective questions to guide self-exploration, and a quotation loosely related to a theme or story of folklore. O’Hara’s bright, bold illustrations—which introduce each entry and are also included as a divination deck—will appeal to readers with strong lines and a sense of glowing from their centers, a boldness that carries through to the more representational sketches of plants that follow. However, the use of color and multiple fonts in the text can become overly busy. This will not replace more traditional herbal guides, but it will appeal to those looking for fun new ways of considering plants. (Aug.)