Shanleya’s Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9 to 99

Okay, we’re going to read Shanleya’s Quest. Storytime… “Grandma, tell us the story of Shanleya,” the children begged. “Yes,” said Katlyn, “we want to hear about her island adventures.” “And I want to know what happened to the Great Tree,” Adelia added. Outside, the cool night wind rustled the leaves on the trees and filtered in through
little cracks in the lodge. Peter added wood to the fire, while Grandmother set out a plate of her delicious cookies. “I will tell you the story of Shanleya,” the old woman said, “but we must start at the very beginning. Come closer so I don’t have to talk so loud.” The children eagerly shared the cookies and scooted closer to hear her story. Here… Shanleya You go first! And then me. It is early in the morning here in this waterworld that we meet Shanleya gazing at the reflection of her earth-toned skin and sky blue eyes in the water beside her canoe. Shanleya picked up a pouch of sacred flower petals, “I ask for your blessings on this journey.” Shanleya spread the flower petals out on the water to both sides of the canoe and continued, “My grandfather said it is time for me to learn the secrets of the plants. I must learn to provide safe food and medicine for our people.” She watched as the petals drifted away, then reached for her paddle and added, “Thank you for watching over me.” With home behind her, she paddled slowly
and gracefully towards the lowly green islands dotting the horizon. Finding Mint Island “You must find Mint Island,” Shanleya remembered Grandfather’s words in her mind, “and bring back the spices that make our food taste so good.” There were more than three hundred islands out there, each inhabited by a different family of closely related plants. Grandfather gave the eager youngster a map to steer her towards Mint Island, which she had to correctly identify from the other islands around it. “Look for square stems and opposite leaves,” Grandfather told her, “and be sure to smell the plants. Most of them have a spicy, minty aroma.” Shanleya had no doubts when she found Mint Island. She smelled the sweet and spicy herbs on the morning breeze long before reaching shore. The girl tied her canoe to a sturdy clump of mints at the water’s edge and grabbed her collecting bag. She identified mint, peppermint, and spearmint by smell alone. Still, she checked the plants to be safe
and yes, they had square stems and opposite leaves just as Grandfather said they would. She admired the odd-looking irregular flowers too. “Good morning, Miss.” Shanleya jumped at the sound of the voice behind her, and turned around to meet the Guardian of Mint Island. He stood straight and square with a red-and-white striped candy cane for a walking stick and a stately crown of wild bergamot flowers upon his head. Shanleya knew immediately that this Guardian was among the friendliest she would ever meet. “Oh, I’m so sorry to startle you!” he apologized, handing her a candied mint leaf. At home Shanleya often helped her mother make candies just like it. They dipped fresh mint leaves in a thick syrup and dried them in the sun. “Oh, thank you,” said the girl. “Grandfather sent me here to learn about all the plants on Mint Island. Could you show me around?” “I would be happy to show you around,” the Guardian said. Shanleya collected a mint
stalk to chew on as she travelled. She thanked the Guardian for his kindness, then returned to her canoe and paddled to the next island. The Secret Combination to Mustard Island Mustard Island was different from the others. The Guardian saw the girl paddling towards the island and welcomed her ashore. “I have a challenge for you,” he offered. “If you know the combination to Mustard Island, then you are welcome to come and collect Mustard greens any time. But if you do not know the combination, then I will ban you from this island forever.” The Guardian pointed to a pile of wooden pieces carved and painted to look like flower parts. The challenge was to put the right parts in the right order to create a model of a Mustard flower. Shanleya knew this game well, for she had played with a similar model in Grandfather’s lodge for as long as she could remember. Whenever she put the model together correctly, Grandfather gave her a special treat: a spicy yellow-brown paste made from crushed mustard seeds. Shanleya liked to spread the mustard paste on sandwiches of roasted gazelle and lettuce. “There are more than 3,200 unique species here, and they are all edible, so help yourself.” Shanleya gathered some mustard greens for salads, plus ripe seeds for Grandfather’s mustard paste. After helping the Guardian turn over a patch of ground to grow more mustards, she gave him a hug and set out for the next island. Can you all smell that mint? I just smelled it! The stems are kind of squarish. Stems are square. Oh, now the smell just kicked in! So, what I’m going to do is introduce the patterns for eight families – all eight families – really quickly, so in each one of these, square stems and opposite leaves. Those are all Mints? Those are all Mint family plants, yes. Shanleya is paddling her canoe to each of what are called the Tree Islands and each Island is home to a different family of plants so when she gets to Pea Island, the
guardian of the Pea Islands has put up what is kind of a pea flower What Pea flowers have is they have a banner petal, two wing petals, like wings on a bird, and a keel, like the keel of a boat. Banner, wings, and keel. And you can see that like in this alfalfa: banner, wings and keel. And if you look very closely at this clover you’ll see that it’s made up of a whole bunch of flowers, teeny tiny flowers and each one has its own banner, wings, and keel. Aster! Grass! Aster! Rose! Aster! Pea! Parsley! Pea! Pea! Aster! Pea! Rose!