But my friend Sheila, at Bookjourney, came up with a great read-along for this wonderful book, and as I re-read this classic novel, I found I was once again fascinated by the idea of secret gardens! At first, Mary is her usual self, sour, disliking the large house, the people within it, and most of all the vast stretch of moor, which seems scrubby and gray after the winter. While exploring the gardens, Mary comes across a badger hole and finds a key belonging to the untended garden. While in the garden, the children are surprised to see Ben Weatherstaff looking over the wall on a ladder. When I first read this book as a child, I didn't like it at all!  I didn't like the character of Mary (thought she was a bully) and I didn't like Colin either (maybe it had to do with him being in a wheelchair, which I was in at the time). I love the garden aspect of the story - it just fascinates me and I long to recreate one of my own someday!  Until then, dreaming of it will have to suffice!
Frances Eliza Hodgson was the daughter of ironmonger Edwin Hodgson, who died three years after her birth, and his wife Eliza Boond. Today’s summer activity for kids, #14 in our 51 Easy Summer Family Fun Activities series, is to create a secret hideaway, tree house, or fort with for your kids. Here’s an excerpt from David Sobel’s book, Children’s Special Places, so you don’t think I’m just making this stuff up.
An examination of the secret world of children that shows how important special places are to a child’s development. Working with your kids to discover or create a secret hideaway is perfect low-tech, summer fun because not only do you spend time together creating, your kids will spend HOURS having summer fun in their own private space. Here’s a great article on how to create a Secret Garden for your child, if you don’t have a natural nook in your garden or backyard already.
At the SimplyHeathltyFamily blog, they created an awesome Dragon Cave indoors that you can use for inspiration and adapt for outdoors. She is unwanted by her mother and father, and taken care of primarily by servants, who pacify her as much as possible to keep her out of the way. She is told that she must stay confined to her two rooms and that nobody will bother much with her and she must amuse herself.
Soon she begins to lose her disposition and gradually comes to enjoy the company of Martha, Ben Weatherstaff the gardener, and also that of a friendly robin redbreast to whom she attaches human qualities.
She chances to ask Martha for garden tools, which Martha has delivered by Dickon, her twelve-year-old brother.

She follows the noise and, to her surprise, finds a small boy her age, living in a hidden bedroom. Startled and angry to find the children there in his late mistress' (Colin's mother's) garden he admits he believed Colin to be a cripple. The children conspire to keep Colin's health a secret so he can surprise his father, who is traveling and mourning over his late wife. She was educated at The Select Seminary for Young Ladies and Gentleman until the age of fifteen, at which point the family ironmongery, then being run by her mother, failed, and the family emigrated to Knoxville, Tennessee. I'm a wife, a mom of four boys, a daughter, a writer, a poet, a gardener, a rose grower, a reader, a tea lover, a musician, a singer, and a student of romantic things in life. From the ages of five to twelve, the middle years of childhood, young people explore their surroundings and find or construct private spaces.
Check out her site for instructions on how to paint it and see how much fun the kids had making it.
Her appetite increases and she finds herself getting stronger as she plays by herself on the moor. Mary and Dickon take a liking to each other, as Dickon has a soft way with animals and a good nature. Colin stands up out of his chair to prove him wrong and finds that his legs are fine, though weak from disuse.
As Colin's health improves, his father's mood does as well, and he has a dream of his wife calling him into the garden that makes him immediately pack his bags and head home. Here Hodgson began to write, in order to supplement the family income, assuming full responsibility for the family upon the death of her mother, in 1870.
The marriage was dissolved in 1898, and Burnett was briefly remarried, to actor Stephen Townsend. In these secret places, children develop and control environments of their own and enjoy freedom from the rules of the adult world. Not only will they be spending time together outside, Dad can show them the basics of woodworking or gardening. If you are lucky, you might find someplace in the yard, neighborhood, local park, or nearby forest preserve that is naturally secluded and safe – a nook in the garden, a small cove, a grove of trees. My kids are too old now for the climber we have in the backyard, however, once we put some blankets around the “treehouse” part of the climber, they suddenly started spending more time out there.

Martha's mother buys Mary a skipping rope in order to encourage this, and she takes to it immediately. Eager to absorb his gardening knowledge, Mary reluctantly lets him into the secret of the garden, which he agrees to keep.
Mary visits every day that week, distracting him from his troubles with stories of the moor, of Dickon and his animals and of the garden. He walks the outer wall in memory but hears voices inside, finds the door unlocked and is shocked to see not only the garden in full bloom with children in it, but his son running. I went there when I was sad, if I just wanted to get away from everyone, if I wanted to read comic books in peace, or even have make-believe, secret club meetings. We put some pillows out there and the kids take their iPod boom boxes out there to jam to their favorite music. Mary's time is occupied by wondering about the secret garden and a strange crying that can sometimes be heard around the house which the servants ignore or deny. It is decided he needs fresh air and the secret garden, which Mary finally admits she has access to.
Following her great success as a novelist, playwright, and children's author, Burnett maintained homes in both England and America, traveling back and forth quite frequently.
If so, help your kids make sure the area is clean and then help your kids “personalize” it.
Fairies might appear, cute creatures might visit, or your best friend might whisper an important secret.
Colin is put into his wheelchair and brought outside into the garden, the first time he's been outdoors in years. She died in her Long Island, New York home, in 1924.Primarily remembered today for her trio of classic children's novels - Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911) - Burnett was also a popular adult novelist, in her own day, publishing romantic stories such as The Making of a Marchioness (1901) for older readers. Psst: You can download The Secret Garden ebook for free from Project Gutenberg, if you want to read it with it with your kids.

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