The Secret Garden

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The Secret Garden

 Written By: Frances Hodgson Burnett

 Pages:  Varies – our illustrated version is 280

Illustrator: Varies – our version was illustrated by Inga Moore

Grade Equivalent Reading Level: 6.8

Lexile Measurement: 970L

 Summary (written by Marie):  A young English girl from India is orphaned and sent to live in a massive but lonely manor house in the English countryside.  Having never been shown love her entire life, she arrives at Misselthwaite Manor a selfish, unhappy and sickly child. As she explores the large house and gardens, she discovers hidden secrets in the gardens, in the house and in her heart.

 Marie’s Review (Mom):

 The Secret Garden is a classic that everyone I know has read and loved. I received a beautifully illustrated book for Christmas one year as a child, and it became a special Mom and Me time of bonding as we read the book and studied the pictures. A few years ago my mom found a resin garden plaque with the words “My Secret Garden” scrawled across it. It brought back good memories for both of us and it now has a special place in my backyard.  When Grace and Lainey asked to see the movie, I told them they had to wait until we read the book, since the book was so good!

If you’re going to purchase the book, it’s worth the extra money to buy an illustrated version.

After having said all that, a few chapters into it my memory was jogged  – parts of the book are soooooo boring.  As I read aloud to the girls, they sighed and fidgeted and asked if we could be done. Parts are fascinating and exciting, but some parts just drag on and on. There are also quite a few words that are well above Lainey’s vocabulary. She was definitely too young this summer to fully appreciate the book.

 Would I read this story again? Not for myself. Possibly with Little May when she’s old enough, but it’s not one I would allow her to read without discussion.  My reasons and final conclusions are discussed below.

Grace’s Review (5th Grade):  It’s kind of like a fairy tale and that’s what I like. My favorite part was where Mary opened the door and found the secret garden, along with the garden blooming in many different colors. I especially love the ending where Mr. Craven comes home.

Lainey’s Review (4th Grade): It was exciting, I loved it! My favorite part was when she found where the secret garden was. I like the ending because she took all of her friends in there. I thought the beginning parts were boring. The robin was one of my favorite characters.

Christian Friendly:  Parts are not!

Typical of many playground conversations and sleepovers of my childhood, the subject of magic comes up in this book.  At first it seems benign – young kids discussing something they don’t know much about. But then it goes on to completely replace God:

“Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of Magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us.”   (p. 231)

There is even and entire chapter titled Magic. Burnett makes it clear to the reader that this is not black magic but a clean, good magic. Is magic a metaphor for God?  What happens if we replace each instance of “magic” with “God?” I admit this started a really good discussion with the girls.

One part I did skip because I do not agree with – even for the sake of discussion – was the ritualistic chanting the children did each day in the garden. I simply told the girls what the kids did and why I was skipping it.

I don’ t believe in sheltering my children and allowing them to only read books with themes I agree with. Every time they step out the door – or even turn on the TV – they are bombarded with secular ideas. However, I do believe the ideas presented should be well written and lead to deep discussions, rather than having those ideas thrown in purely for the sake of adventure or a funny story line (for instance, I don’t allow the girls to read the Magic Tree House series). To me, the Secret Garden is worth reading if your child enjoys this type of story to begin with, and is mature enough to discuss the magic as represented in the story.

Sensitive Readers:   There was nothing in here I felt would bother a sensitive child.

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