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When Mary Lennox's parents die from cholera in India, the spoiled orphan is transplanted to her uncle's 600-year-old gloomy and secretive estate in England.
However, she soon discovers an arched doorway into an overgrown garden, locked shut since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. I ordered this to listen to with my kids and I find myself making excuses and finding places to go in the car just to listen to the cd. Where you can find the best book at the right reading level and spark (or fuel) a life long love of reading in your kids! Sara Crewe, the heroine of Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess comes by her compassion, tolerance, friendliness and imagination no doubt through her own charming nature but also as a result of the nurturing of her father for the fist several years of her life.
It's amazing, really, that Burnett is able to craft such a memorable, moving story with two entirely unlikable children at its center.
What struck me most about The Secret Garden, which of course I have no memory of from my readings of this book as a child, is the last chapter in the book titled, "In the Garden," in which Burnett treats us to a long, detailed, timeless case for the power of the mind - both positive and negative. Burnett's book (as well as A Little Princess) demonstrates the power of the mind to shape a life over and over again. Readers, both young and old, who are fans of The Secret Garden should be sure not to miss Ellen Potter's fantastic contemporary retelling The Humming Room! Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids!
Fate grants Mary access to the secret garden and she begins transforming it into a thing of beauty--unaware that she too is changing. Sed aliquam, urna ut sollicitudin molestie, lacus justo aliquam mauris, interdum aliquam sapien nisi cursus mauris. Mary Lennox and her cousin, Colin Craven, the main characters in The Secret Garden, undoubtedly Burnett's best known work, stand in stark opposition to Sara's almost too-perfect person. Although I doubt that there is anyone reading this who does not know the plot of The Secret Garden, I'll give you the bare bones just in case.
Burnett's story, from the cheeky little robin who befriends Mary and leads her to the secret garden in the first place, to Dickon with his moor pony, crow, fox and pockets full of squirrels to the garden itself is rich with enchanting animal characters and natural settings that are described in the most visual way. I am a HUGE fan of Potter's and was lucky enough to get an advance copy of her newest book, the review of which will post this Friday. When Mary meets the old groundskeeper, he is the first to tell her what he thinks of her, "We was wove out of th' same cloth.


Both Mary and Colin are vile little creatures who, through death and indifference, have been left to be raised by servants. Left to her own devices, and with the occasional friendship and guidance of Martha, the sensible young maid who comes from a family of twelve, Mary discovers the secret garden, the one that was locked up and forgotten when Mrs Craven, who's garden it was, died there. But Burnett also gives us Mrs Sowerby, Martha and Dickon's mother who manages to feed, clothe, love and nurture her twelve children in a tiny cottage with almost no income. These aspects are especially enticing if you are reading Inga Moore's gorgeously illustrated edition published by Candlewick for a mere $14.99. I had planned to read The Secret Garden and bumped it up on my list to give me a better perspective when reading Potter's new book, which is fantastic. Growing up in India, Mary is unwanted by her mother and handed into the care of an Ayah as soon as possible. With the help of Ben Weatherstaff, one of the gardeners at the Manor, and Dickon, Martha's moor-roaming, nature loving, animal-whispering younger brother, Mary discovers the beauty and joy in nature and a sense of purpose in growing the secret garden back to former glory. At first, people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they being to hope it can't be done, then they see it can be done - then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago. On top of this, she finds a way to buy a skipping rope for Mary at the start of the book and send extra food into the secret garden with Dickon when she learns that Mary and Colin are trying to hide their increasing health from the staff at Misselthwaite as they work and play in the garden.
While I grew up with the Tasha Tudor illustrated edition of The Secret Garden, I bought Moore's for nostalgic reasons and would strongly recommend you purchase this edition for any young reader in your life.
I think it would be so hard to write a book inspired by a classic and she has created a wonderful contemporary story. She begins life as a "sickly, fretful, ugly little baby" who grows into a "sickly, fretful toddling thing." By the age of ten when Cholera has taken her parents and sent her to Yorkshire to live with her only relative she has a "little thin face and a little thin body, thin light hair and a sour expression" along with an imperious attitude to make her unattractiveness complete. One of the few things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts -  just mere thoughts - are as powerful as electric batteries - as good for one as sunlight is, or as pad for one as poison. Susan Sowerby and her children have every reason to be downtrodden and despondent in their outlook and yet they are the happiest, healthiest people in the book and they share their wealth of positive outlook with those around them. Then, if you have not had your fill of nature and turn-of-the-century British children's literature, snap up Inga Moore's fantastic edition of Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Colin has suffered equally, abandoned by is father who continues to grieve the death of his mother ten years later but also because, sick from birth, Archibald Craven cannot bear the sight of his son and the thought that he, too, might grow to have a hunchback. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body.


In fact, it is Mrs Sowerby who gently intervenes twice, first on the behalf of Mary, then Colin, to ensure that Mr Craven not be so overcome by his sad thoughts that he looses sight of the children's needs all together.
In turn, Colin cannot bear to have anyone except a handful of servants see him and he remains hidden away in Misselthwaite Manor.
As much as I admire Sara Crewe and her selfless qualities, she has always struck me as a very mature, stoic character in the way that she bears her suffering patiently.
If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live. It is important to see the transformations in outlook that Colin, Mary and Archibald undergo over the course of the book, but it is equally important to learn from Susan Sowerby and her family. Donec scelerisque, urna id tincidunt ultrices, nisi nisl lacinia mi, at pellentesque enim mi eu felis. Colin's genuine illnesses have spilled over into hysteria and his frequent fits only serve to feed his physical and mental deterioration.
Mary and Colin share none of these qualities and, even when they do begin to find their personalities transformed, they remain childish in their outlooks and secretive in their ways. I also think it is important that, in the character of Archibald Craven, Burnett shows young readers that adults as well as children, can be overcome by negative thoughts and brought low. They talk of "magic" as a way of explaining the changes in the garden and themselves so often that you almost want to shake their frail little shoulders.
One other striking similarity between the two books is the use of animals as important parts of the story. Etiam pulvinar, mi et molestie vestibulum, neque tellus pulvinar massa, vel varius nulla tellus at tortor. His willingness to be close to humans, both Mary and Ben Weatherstaff find they are brightened by the companionship of the robin and experience a connection in his presence.



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