Friday, April 3, 2015

Classic MG Read-a-long: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

March's  pick for the Classic Middle Grade Read along with the Midnight Garden was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.   You can follow along or join in the discussion at or #tmgreadalong on Twitter.  

Published:  December 21st 2010 by Harper Collins (first published January 1st 1911.)  
Genres: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Pages: 358 pages
Format: Paperback
Source:  Purchased

From Goodreads: "When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle's great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors.

The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary's only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. One day, with the help of two unexpected companions, she discovers a way in. Is everything in the garden dead, or can Mary bring it back to life?"

This was my first time reading The Secret Garden, I know how did I miss this one too? Where was I during my childhood that most of the classics got skipped?    I'm not sure if  I would have enjoyed this as a child,  I think I would have.  I would defiantly have enjoyed reading about the Secret Garden.   I loved flowers and the outdoors as a kid.  Even now I would love to have a garden filled with roses,  sadly I live in a place where the wildlife loves gardens too.  Even an indoor one wont work because of the cat, sigh.  As an adult reader, I was enchanted by the whole story and certainly felt an emotional connection to the characters.

“She stopped and listened to him and somehow his cheerful, friendly little whistle gave her a pleased feeling--even a disagreeable little girl may be lonely, and the big closed house and big bare moor and big bare gardens had made this one feel as if there was no one left in the world but herself. If she had been an affectionate child, who had been used to being loved, she would have broken her heart, but even though she was "Mistress Mary Quite Contrary" she was desolate, and the bright-breasted little bird brought a look into her sour little face which was almost a smile. She listened to him until he flew away. He was not like an Indian bird and she liked him and wondered if she should ever see him again. Perhaps he lived in the mysterious garden and knew all about it.” 

This quote makes me very sad for Mary.  She's this little girl who not once was acknowledged growing up, left in the constant care of servants who's role was to keep her out of sight and quiet.  Then to have everyone die of cholera around her and to be cast once again into a situation where she was left alone. It's all so heartbreaking.  You can't hardly blame Mary for the ways in which she thinks of the world and herself, being selfish isn't entirely her fault.  Despite or because of all this,  Mary has this wonderful imagination, a creative streak and lovely curiosity.   I loved how Martha sets things in motion for Mary by talking about her brother and the garden.  Once, Mary meets Dickon Sowerby and Ben Weatherstaff everything really changes for her.  Then when Mary happens upon the key to the Secret Garden, there is the excitement of finally getting inside, almost like she does walk into this fairy place where magic can happen.  

"It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine.  The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses which were so thick that they were matted together."

Yet, once again Mary is in a quiet desolate place, one that has been abandoned for ten years.  Yet, somehow though, she see's the beauty of what this place once was and the potential for what it could be.   Maybe the garden is a means for Mary to have something to care about and to do on her days alone, but ultimately it changes her demeanor and outlook.  It's most obvious when she meets Colin, her Uncle's son.  A boy whose life resembles Mary's, except Colin has been bedridden for many years.  When Mary stands up to Collin as he is having one of his "hysterics" she realizes how she was acting just like him. Mary in turn helps Colin see that he shouldn't be wallowing on his illness.  There is a whole theme of having positive thoughts that ultimately helps Colin to improve.   The way in which Burnett describes Mary and Colin as improving through them "being plump," and having rosy cheek's, fatter legs etc.,  reminds me of my grandmother.  She was a strong believer in the curative properties of fresh air, often sleeping with the windows open.  She even felt that you should never be skinny and that "plumpness" meant that you were healthy, if you were ever to become sick, you could overcome it because those few extra pounds were a cushion in case you lose weight.  Of course this was influenced by her having grown up during a war when food was scarce, but it made me smile to think of her while reading The Secret Garden.  

The Secret Garden is a beautiful story, I loved reading about the way the garden was transformed and all the changes that the many characters went through.  There were so many passages that I can't list nearly all of them, but I certainly understand why this has become a classic.  Lovely symbolism, themes and a wonderful group of characters.  

**Reposting for the Read-a-long***


  1. I loved A Secret Garden when I was growing up. I read it quite a few times back then, but haven't read it in ages. I should really reread it again. It was so fun reading your review and hearing your excitement in your words. I would love to find a secret garden now- as my garden is one of my favorite places to spend time. I am adding this to my list of books to read/reread. Thanks for the reminder. :) So glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Thanks Jess, so sweet of you to stop by. I can see myself re-reading this on occasion .