Storying engagements with vegetal intelligences: Insights from children's literature

Human survival is dependent on the vegetal world. Plants, lichen and mushrooms provide the air we breathe, the food we eat, pleasures we crave, medicines, and shelter. They also have the power to poison us or kill us by other means. When faced with this familiar-strange intelligence, human arrogance assumes that humans have the deciding power. Human-Plant Studies (HPS) questions this assumption, as do indigenous ways of understanding the living world. This presentation endeavors to open up a richer understanding of human-plant relations, using storying as a means of reimagining human relations with the vegetal world.

Children’s literature, typically expresses adult desires, hopes, and concerns about the future, and so often provides fertile ground for imagining new ways of being in the world. In this presentation, I am interested in whether young readers of the books I discuss would be able to imagine human-plant relations in the ways I describe. I use them to tap into collective ideas about plants to (re)imagine relations with the vegetal world. Three cases will be presented: 1. Losing contact 2. Becoming compost 3. Becoming native.