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A Little Princess (Puffin Classics) Paperback – March 27, 2008
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About the Author
Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924) was born in Manchester. She had a very poor upbringing and used to escape from the horror of her surroundings by writing stories. In 1865 her family emigrated to the USA where she married and became the successful author of many children's books including Little Lord Fauntleroy andThe Secret Garden.
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The story follows 10 year old Miss Mary. She grew up in India with her parents until cholera wiped out her household. When she was little, she was raised by her nurse and was given anything she wanted. Everyone had to listen to her and do what she said. So when everyone was gone, she didn't really know what to do. She was sent to live with her uncle in England. Her uncle was very hands off and left her to her own devices. Between her maid, the housekeeper, and a gardener, she slowly transitions from a spoiled, bored, sickly child to a rather independent, lively child who enjoys gardening. She is encouraged by everyone to spend as much time outdoors to improve her health and strength. She meets Dicken, her maid's brother who has a strong affinity for animals and talking to him helps her see the world differently. She finds her way into a garden that has been shut-up and hidden for a decade. Between her and Dicken they begin to bring the garden to life and the changes they make there begin to reflect themselves in the spirits and health of the young ones. Mysterious crying in the house leads to a new discovery the helps to bring the magic of the secret garden completely to life.
I think the story is a great message to everyone. It teaches about the importance of not being spoiled and lazy. It shows acceptance of disabilities and illustrates the power of thoughts. I found the story to be highly enjoyable and engaging. The writing was simple and fun to read. The language was not extremely difficult but it did provide vocabulary that most children now-a-days do not hear very often. It is also told from the child's point of view so it will be very easy for children to relate to. Even as an adult, I was able to connect with the story. The simple lessons taught throughout that I mentioned before are relevant even to an adult's life and it helps to see the world through their eyes. I highly recommend this book if you have never read it before.
"The Secret Garden" follows Mary, a spoiled and unlikable young girl and the daughter of a British officer living in India. When her parents die of a terrible sickness, she's shuttled off to England to live with a reclusive uncle, and finds herself lost and alone in the gloomy manor. But as she sets out to explore her new home and make sense of this strange new land, she discovers the titular secret garden -- a garden that has been locked up since her aunt died in a tragic accident ten years ago. Enchanted by the garden, Mary sets out to tend it and bring it back to life, aided by a grouchy gardener, a soft-hearted animal-loving boy named Dickon... and Colin, a cousin who has been locked inside all his life and treated like an invalid. The garden turns out to be just the thing both Mary and Colin need to revitalize themselves... and it just may finally bring healing to a family long broken by tragedy...
"The Secret Garden" is an enchanting novel, told with an almost fairy-tale-like language that evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of the English moors and gardens and their inhabitants. The writing style is lovely, and paints clear pictures in the mind. The heavy Yorkshire accents of certain characters can be tricky at times, but I managed anyhow. And while Dickon as a character feels a little too good to be true, almost straying into Mary-Sue territory, it's nice to see Mary and Colin develop as the book goes in, gaining confidence in themselves and shedding some of the selfishness and bad temper their sheltered lives have given them.
The biggest flaw, in my opinion, is that the book strays into a weird fantasy/magical-realism realm toward the end, which I feel wasn't foreshadowed very well. I love fantasy and don't mind magical realism, but it felt out of place here, especially with Colin going on about studying "magic" while at the same time declaring he wants to be a scientist. It just felt odd to me, and while it might be a product of its time (this book IS over a century old), it did taint my enjoyment somewhat.
Still, complaints aside, I can easily see why "The Secret Garden" enjoys a reputation as a children's classic. It's not the best children's novel I've ever read, but I enjoyed it, and am glad I gave it a chance. Perhaps I'll pick up the author's other classic, "A Little Princess," sometime in the near future...