Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett
Illustrator:  Inga Moore 
For ages 8 to 12
Candlewick, 2007   ISBN: 978-0763631611

Little Mary Lennox is probably the most sour, unattractive, and disagreeable child that you are ever likely to meet. This is not entirely her fault because her parents never gave her much attention and certainly none of their love. Instead, Mary was raised by an Indian nurse, an ayah, who gave Mary everything she wanted and who let the little girl be as bossy and rude as she wanted to be.

Now Mary's parents are both dead and she is going to live with her hitherto unseen uncle who lives in a gloomy old manor house on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. How different this place is from India and how different the people are too. Here no one salaams to her, and they even expect her to  dress herself every morning. Bit by bit, Mary starts to learn more and more about her new home. She learns that there is a secret garden somewhere on the grounds, a garden that has been closed off from the world for years.

Mary cannot help wanting to find the secret garden, and with the help of a friendly little robin bird, she manages to find both the hidden door and the key that will open it. Little does she know that there is something about the garden that is indeed magical. The longer Mary stays and works in the garden, the nicer, prettier, and healthier she becomes. Mary begins to make friends for the first time in her life.

Then Misselthwaite gives up another of its secrets, and Mary finds herself facing a real challenge, one which may end up spoiling the secret of the garden forever.

This beautiful story is certainly one of the best children's books that has ever been written. Readers will see how good sense, kindness, love, and being out in nature can help someone whose heart and mind have dried up and become hard and bitter. They will see how bringing a garden to life can be healing to those whose bodies and spirits are weak and sad. First published in 1911, this is a tale that will surely continue to charm readers of all ages for years to come.

Inga Moore's gorgeous illustrations perfectly capture the underlying magical element in this special story. Soft colors and intimate details give the full page pictures an added richness. In addition, there are numerous little illustrations and smaller panels throughout the book, which add a very special something to the tale.