Top 100 Children’s Books Readalong – The Secret Garden

I have to admit that this is yet another book, like The Graveyard Book, that I chose to read early in the project for completely selfish reasons. It had been over ten years since I last read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden, not to mention that I own this annotated edition and hadn’t had a chance to open it yet. So how did this classic tale stand up to my glowing memories of the many times I had read it before? Wonderfully.Basically, this is the story of a girl, two boys and a garden. The girl is Mary Lennox, the boys are her cousin, Colin Craven, and the magical Dickon Sowerby. Mary’s parents die in India and she is sent back to England to live with her uncle. At the time, she knows nothing about her cousin who is hidden away, crippled by the fact that he has been told since he was born that he was sickly and might not live. She herself has been raised in such a way that she is horribly spoiled, disagreeable and lonely. But there is one thing at Misselthwaite Manor that could be the saving of them both — a walled garden that has been abandoned for ten years, ever since Colin’s mother died there.I’ll start with the story itself. It was believable, timeless and compelling. The writing was very lyrical and, in a way, motherly. It reads like a story being told to a child, as part cautionary tale, part love letter to the moors and English gardens. There is no real villain, just the internal emotions of certain characters that keep them from living their best lives. It’s an absolutely gorgeous story and the next time I read it will be with Z. I can’t think of any reason why he wouldn’t enjoy it too. As for this annotated edition, the initial essay on Burnett’s life was fascinating and informative, but the actual annotations were mostly unsupported analyses and definitions of period/regional words that most readers who would pick up an annotated edition would already be familiar with. She (Gerzina) frequently seemed to force Christian allegory on the story that I don’t think Burnett intended. And some of the annotations were repetitive which was a bit annoying because they would pull you out of the story for no reason. Overall, I would recommend The Secret Garden to all readers but not necessarily this annotated edition. You would be better off reading a bit about the author online beforehand and then letting yourself get lost in the beauty of the story.

Verdict: Buy

Have you read The Secret Garden? It was number 15 on the list. Do you think it deserves that exalted spot? My next read is Tuck Everlasting — one that I’ve never read before. Please join me if you have a couple of free days (it’s short – 139 pages in my library copy) and, if you’ve seen it, should I watch the movie?


Schedule – November through March
note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after

November 30 – #16 Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (1975)
— always wanted to read (may pair with watching the 2002 film)
December 15 – #93 Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson (2001)
— trying to read more of Ibbotson’s wonderful stories, this is set in Brazil
December 31 – #33 Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (1971)
— a childhood favorite (will pair with watching the 1982 film, another favorite)
January 15 – #75 The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright (1941)
— a new-to-me book, 1st in a series
January 31 – #10 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977)
— first time reading on my own, was read to us by teacher in 6th grade
February 15 – #25 The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis (1995)
— new to me, a great read for Black History Month
February 28 – #97 The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton (1962)
— new to me, out of print so check your local library
March 15 – #12 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (1999)
— going to be my first time reading it with Z, 3rd in a series (duh)

Kristen  is the is fabulous mind behind We Be Reading and is an entrepreneur, mom and sometimes scientist who loves to read and get other people reading. Her son, Z, is an eight year old boy who also loves to read and write his own books.

12 thoughts on “Top 100 Children’s Books Readalong – The Secret Garden

  1. I have never read this book, and have heard that it’s a staple of those who love literature. I have often wondered if I would be too old for this book, but after reading your review, I think that I could probably enjoy it at my current stage in life, so that is just what I am going to do. Thanks for the ensnaring review today. It was just the encouragement I needed.

    • Fantastic! I think that you will enjoy it. It’s interesting for so many reasons and I certainly think that all ages can get something out of reading it, even just another historical perspective about colonialism.

  2. Andi and I read this together earlier this year. I hadn’t read it since I was a kid, but remembered loving it then. I really enjoyed it now, as an adult, but some of the magic was gone I think. Not to say I didn’t love it again, just in a different way. When I was a kid, the idea of the secret garden was just so…magical. I WANTED one.

    • So did I! I used to fantasize about being in the story. And reading it again later in life is certainly not quite the same, especially when you know what will eventually happen between Colin and his dad and all that. I remember being so joyfully happy at the ending the first time I read it though! It is really a happy book for all of the unhappiness that is in it too.

    • There are some fantastic movies of this story. I love them all. There is a Back to the Secret Garden film from a few years ago that I haven’t seen yet but plan to watch soon.

    • Oh, I forgot about The Humming Room! I need to read that one soon. I’m glad that you were able to enjoy this story even though you only read it for the first time as an adult. I also loved the interactions between the children and their ability to bring out the best in each other. So many times in children’s literature it’s the opposite.

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