The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a fun, surprise-filled, old-fashioned book for elementary-aged children.

Miss Mary Lenox is born in India, neglected by a beautiful mother and an officer father who are the center of a whirling social life. Mary is hidden from their guests and cared for by a large staff of servants who must obey her every command. Often sick, unloved, yet spoiled; Mary develops a very sour disposition.

When cholera sweeps through the household, Mary is left an orphan and is shipped to her only relative, an uncle who lives on the moor in England. He is a hunchback who spends most of his time away from home. The manor is a huge, rambling, dark house shrouded in mystery.

Her maid Martha is not a polished servant, but a pert young Yorkshire woman from a family of twelve children raised by a loving and sensible mother. She laughs at Mary’s imperious ways, teaches the girl to dress herself, and encourages her to spend time outdoors.

Mary hears about a secret garden that has been locked up for ten years, ever since her uncle’s young wife died.  She becomes consumed with finding the garden and claiming it for her own.

The remainder of the story follows Mary through the discovery of the garden, the making of two friends, and a journey to physical and emotional health.  The surprise ending is very satisfying.

Two aspects of the book might trouble readers. At the beginning Mary and Martha both speak of the people of India in ways that are prejudiced. Undoubtedly, these opinions reflected those of people in that place and time, but should be regarded as untrue.  Near the end of the book, one of the characters gives speeches about “Magic”. He is working through ideas about what makes good things happen in the world, and this is the term he uses. Some parents might object to this concept and want to discuss this section with their children.

The Secret Garden is a heartwarming tale told from a child’s point of view.  It brings the reader from despair and selfishness to hope and friendship. Like the beautiful garden and playful young animals of the moorland, the children grow. It is a good book to add to your shelf. There are many versions: paperback, hardbound, and beautifully illustrated. The book is available in libraries, online, and in bookstores.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.

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