Seeds of Change: Negotiating Hierarchies in Seed Picturebook Stories


  • Lizao Hu University of Macau



seed stories, critical plant studies, new materialism, agency, plant awareness disparity


How tiny seeds are represented in children’s literature has long eluded critical attention, although they are frequently foregrounded in the words and images of children’s picturebooks. Drawing upon critical plant studies, new materialism, and Kathryn Parsley’s notion of “plant awareness disparity”, this article analyzes three contemporary seed picturebook stories, namely Jory John and Pete Oswald’s The Bad Seed (2017), Cristiana Valentini and Philip Giordano’s Stay, Little Seed (2020), and Jen Cullerton Johnson and Sonia Lynn Sadler’s Seeds Of Change: Planting a Path to Peace (2011). With a focus on the verbal and visual representations of seeds and their poetic relationship with children, the analysis of the three seed stories reveals the empowering nature of seed narratives which represent seeds as anthropomorphized characters or symbolic motifs, but most essentially, as agentic beings with vibrancy. These stories exhibit the poetic entanglement of seeds and children in an agentic assemblage of collective vulnerability, which not only blurs the line between the human and vegetal, but also negotiates power hierarchies embedded in the world ruled by adults. Thus, I argue that seed stories reveal the agentic power of seeds by crafting various forms of poetic entanglements between seeds and children. Although the child-seed entanglement may not entirely deconstruct an asymmetry between adults and innocent children as well as between matured plants and tiny seeds, this study offers an alternative perspective that counters the perception of seeds and children as vulnerable and controlled.


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Author Biography

Lizao Hu, University of Macau

Lizao Hu is a doctoral student of Literary Studies (English) at the University of Macau. She holds an MEd in Children’s Literature and Literacies offered by the University of Glasgow and an MA in Applied Linguistics offered by the Nanyang Technological University. Her research interests include plant studies in children’s literature and multimodality in picturebooks. 






Plant Tendrils in Children's and Young Adult Literature