Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Return to the Secret Garden

Author: Holly Webb
Genre: Children's, Historical Fiction
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
First Published: November 1, 2016
First Line: "The children marched down the street in a crocodile, and only one of them looked back."

Book Description from GoodReadsThe only friend Emmie Hatton has ever had at the Craven Home for Orphaned Children is Lucy, the little black kitten that visits her on the fire escape every day. But when the children of Craven Home are evacuated out of London because of the war, heartbroken Emmie is forced to leave sweet Lucy behind. The children are sent to Misselthwaite Manor, a countryside mansion full of countless dusty rooms and a kind, if busy, staff. Emmie even finds a gruff gardener and an inquisitive little robin that just might become new friends.

And soon, in the cold, candle-lit nights at Misselthwaite, Emmie starts discovering the secrets of the house-a boy crying at night, a diary written by a girl named Mary, and a very secret, special garden...

Return to the world of The Secret Garden with this enchanting new tale that will delight fans of the original story and new readers alike!

My Rating: 3/5 stars

My Review: I want to preface this review by saying that the original classic novel, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, is my all-time favourite childhood book.  That meant that going into this newer version I had reservations and anticipation in equal measure.

Webb undertakes a huge responsibility to readers who loved the original as she continues the story of the garden and its next generation of admirers.  I enjoyed how Webb incorporated Emmie's story within the backdrop of WWII which was such a tumultuous and dangerous time when many children were sent out of London to the safer countryside to wait out the war.

While this book feels like it's written for a slightly younger audience than the original I think that the author captured some of the magic from the classic by including many of the original characters.  Readers who haven't read the original will still be able to enjoy this book because of old diaries that are incorporated into the story line which help reveal the back story for new readers and remind fans who have previously read the original.  

Webb has written a nice story with a hearty nod to the original.  But part of me wishes that she had added more of her own twists to make it stand apart more from Hodgson Burnett's version. I think it followed too closely to the original.

While this was a good read there were a few things that fell a little short for me: First, while Emmie was a good main character (who loves her wee cat almost to distraction of the reader) she lacked the sass and heart of Mary Lennox. Second, this book didn't have the eerie suspense that made the original so memorable.  I think Webb tried to add suspense by not revealing the true identities of some of the characters (namely Mr. and Mrs. Craven and the dower gardener - whose dialect was oddly conveyed on paper) until much farther into the story.  Unfortunately, it wasn't a hard code to crack for fans of the classic and I don't know if readers who hadn't read the original will necessarily make the connections easily.

In the end, I think young tweens (9-11 years) will enjoy this book. For fans of the classic it's a nice look at what could have happened to the original characters and while I didn't find this book quite as enchanting as the original it was an enjoyable and easy read featuring a truly memorable garden.

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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