The Wonder of the World Leaf by Summer Edward and Sayada Ramdial

Hello! Please join me in welcoming author and editor Summer Edward to Watch. Connect. Read.! She stopped by to discuss The Wonder of the World Leaf, Sayada Ramdial's illustrations, Wygenia, buljol, currant rolls, and more. I wrote the words in purple, and Summer wrote the words in black. Thank you, Summer! 

The Wonder of the World Leaf tells the story of a caring young girl named Wygenia who desperately wants to make her ill grandmother well again.

Wygenia lives in Trinidad, one of the islands that make up the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. When she discovers that growing on the island is a medicinal plant so powerful it’s called the ‘Wonder of the World’ plant, she sees a ray of hope. But there’s a problem—Wygenia doesn’t have enough Wonder of the World leaves for the home remedies she wants to make for her grandmother. So, she grows a Wonder of the World plant, and does so in quite an unusual way. Then she has to convince her rather pessimistic grandmother to give the home remedies a try. Hopefully readers will keep reading to see whether Wygenia succeeds, and to discover what it really takes to make a sick person better. (Hint: It’s more than just medicine.)

Anyone who’s had to watch a loved one or companion of any kind grapple with illness or grief knows what it’s like to want back the person-that-used-to-be. Particularly now, during the pandemic, so many people are in need of restoration and healing, whether for themselves or for the ones they love. I think many readers will relate to Wygenia and her grandmother in that way.

What can readers expect to find in the story? Well, it’s a homespun concoction of the following: intergenerational relationships, community healing, Afrocentric fashion, Trinidad Creole dialogue, Trinbagonian foods, Caribbean bush medicine, child-like wonder, and the warm fuzzies.

Sayada Ramdial’s illustrations 
are all of the following: culturally authentic, uplifting, illuminating, charming in their simplicity. When I was creating the character that became Wygenia, I kept seeing in my mind the image of this young Black girl with big, loose natural hair who wears comfy ankara dresses. Ankara wax print fabric is the one of the most common types of African fabrics, recognizable by its bold colors and patterns. When my editor asked me to provide art direction for Sayada, I specifically requested that the depictions of the characters positively center Afrocentric aesthetics. So, Wygenia belongs to the kind of Afro-Trinbagonian family that sports dreadlocks and wears Afro-boho clothing.

Having an illustrator who knows, and is a part of, the world the story portrays makes such a difference; Sayada, who is a Trinbagonian based in Tucson, absolutely aced it with her artwork.

Wygenia is full of wonder and a ready hope. Her hope is more than optimism though; she’s the kind of child who has the gumption to take action when her grandmother falls ill. In Wygenia, we see the practical outworking of the wonder and empathy that comes so naturally to a child. As the story shows, that agentic kind of hope is contagious since it spreads to others in Wygenia’s community. I hope Wygenia’s loving action in the story will inspire children to think about what they can do to help or comfort someone who’s down-and-out, and then go do it.

Wygenia is also endearing! Sayada, the illustrator, drew a character who is so winsome that I wish she’d spring to life just so that I could hug her. There is a simplicity and innocence to Wygenia that makes me feel like she could represent something bigger that some readers might need reminding of. She’s the kind of child, the kind of person, that I love to meet.

Crix, buljol, currant rolls, and nut cakes are just some of the delicious Trinbagonian foods that are mentioned in the story. Every country has its biscuit of choice. For Trinbagonians, it’s crix, a locally manufactured cracker that generations of us have grown up with. You can eat crix with virtually anything! Buljol is a dish prepared by mixing together salted cod, oil, fresh peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and sometimes boiled eggs. A currant roll is a flaky Trinbagonian pastry containing a filling of currants and sugar. A nut cake is a Trinbagonian sweet made from peanuts, sugar syrup and ginger.

The particular foods mentioned in the story are ones that I strongly associate with childhood memories of comfort and community. I couldn’t write a story about healing without showing the nurture and nourishment that happens through the enjoyment and sharing of food amongst Wygenia’s family and friends. After the lockdowns this past year, I think many of us have a renewed appreciation of the commonality and togetherness that emerges from breaking bread with others. I wrote the first draft of The Wonder of the World Leaf eight years ago, but I think its subtle message that food serves an important communal function is a healing message for these times.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me
whether or not the Wonder of the World plant is an actual, real-life plant. It is! Across the Caribbean islands, the Wonder of the World plant is famed for being one of nature’s healing wonders. Its scientific name is ‘Kalanchoe pinnata’, but the plant goes by different names: Fey Lougawou in Haiti, Hoja del aire in Puerto Rico, and Herbe mal tĂȘte in Guadeloupe and Dominica. In other parts of the world, it’s called Miracle Leaf, Life Plant, Air Plant, Leaf of Life, and Mexican Love Plant. But my favorite name given to the plant is ‘Wonder of the World’ because that sounds like something magical and powerful that you’d want to show to a child. If even one child feels like that when they read The Wonder of the World Leaf—like they’ve been shown something magical and powerful—then I’d say my job was done.

Thank you, Summer!

Summer Edward is a Trinidadian American writer, a children’s fiction editor at Heinemann, and the creator of Anansesem, an online magazine covering Caribbean literature for young readers that was published for a decade. She also reviews children’s and young adult books by authors from the Caribbean and its diaspora for The Horn Book Magazine. The Wonder of the World Leaf, her children’s book debut, was published by HarperCollins/Collins Big Cat on April 1, 2021. To learn more about Summer and her books visit

Sayada Ramdial is a freelance illustrator from Trinidad & Tobago, who’s now living and working in the Southwest USA. Her passion for art started early, and was given direction when she attended the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she majored in Illustration and minored in Drawing. One of Sayada’s favourite things to draw (and to make) is food! When she’s not experimenting at the drawing board or in the kitchen, she enjoys exploring nature and meeting friendly, furry pets.

Borrow The Wonder of the World Leaf from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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