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The Night Gardener Paperback – May 5, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Storytelling and the secret desires of the heart wind together in this atmospheric novel that doubles as a ghost tale. Irish immigrants to England, Molly and Kip make their way to the Windsor house in search of employment. The great house stands in the shadow of a menacing tree, which locals speak of only in fearful whispers. Despite her young age and the warnings of a local storyteller, Molly uses the power of her own words to secure work, but soon realizes that all is not right in the house. Constance, Bertrand, Penny, and Alistair Windsor each struggle with personal demons, and strange footprints appear at night. A malevolent spirit, the Night Gardener, haunts the estate, dooming its inhabitants with foul dreams while the tree grants wishes to entrap the recipients. Molly and Kip must face their own dark secrets to release the Gardener's hold and end his evil enchantments. Auxier gives readers a spooky story with depth and dimension. Molly's whimsical tales illustrate life's essential lessons even as they entertain. As the characters face the unhealthy pull of the tree's allurements, they grow and change, revealing unexpected personality traits. Storytelling as a force to cope with life's challenges is subtly expressed and adds complexity to the fast-paced plot. Readers of Mary Downing Hahn or Peg Kehret's ghost novels will connect with the supernatural elements and the independent child protagonists of Auxier's tale of things that go bump in the night.—Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CT --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Auxier’s second novel is part morality play, part ghost story, and all enthralling. Molly and Kip are Irish orphans seeking employment in England after their parents die in a shipwreck. Brave, quick-thinking Molly is solicitous of her younger disabled brother, and she feels guilty because she has managed to hide the truth about their parents’ death from him, spinning yarns about their travels and promising they will all be together soon. Molly finds them work as servants in a distinctly creepy, isolated country manor where a huge tree growing into the house is casting a spell over the inhabitants, among other mysterious goings-on. Auxier, like Molly, is a born storyteller, and he weaves a tale that will keep readers glued to the page. The outcomes may be expected, but the journeys are riveting, while the predictability conjures the comfort and satisfaction of a classic fairy tale. Grades 6-9. --Debbie Carton --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I began reading it and was instantly hooked. The author, Mr. Auxier, builds the suspense and crafts this tale very smartly. He leaves you wanting more and more until the very end, but doesn't draw it out so as to make it boring or taxing. It's a fine line and he walks it expertly. The book is a fast read and the plot moves quickly, which is something I like. I'm admittedly not a voracious reader so a book REALLY has to grab me and keep me wanting more. The Night Gardener did just that. I found myself surprised that the intended audience is 9-14 because I feel that it reads much older and is really for any age. The plot unfolds chapter by chapter and you find yourself asking, "What in the WORLD is going on in this house?!" You just want to know the answer, and as you turn the pages, you get more and more of said answers until you get to the thrilling conclusion, which admittedly had my heart pumping. It's creepy, mysterious, suspenseful, and has a good heart all at the same time. The two main characters, Molly and Kip, are instantly likable and relatable. This is definitely a book for all ages. I'm a grown woman, no kids, and I absolutely loved it. It kept my attention and was a definite page-turner. Couldn't put it down. I highly recommend it! As someone else said, however, some younger readers might find it scary, especially if they're reading it before bed!
Lastly, as a side note, I found it interesting that in the author's note at the end, Mr. Auxier mentions that one of his inspirations for this book was "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which is one of my all-time favorite books (and movies -- check out the 1993 version with Maggie Smith). I just adore the story. It amused me greatly when I read that, because the plot summary alone reminded me instantly of The Secret Garden, which is actually why I decided to read it. Indeed, the story itself reminded me of it as well. That made me love "The Night Gardener" all the more!
Upon their arrival, the children can’t help but notice that the estate is in sad disrepair. The roof of the house sags and the lawn is overgrown with weeds. However, what stands out more than anything else is a huge tree so close to the house that some of its branches have grown through the walls. The longer Molly and Kip stay, the more they realize there is an eerie connection between the tree and all the strange things they observe at the house: the Windsor family’s sallow, sickly complexions, nightmares that plague everyone at bedtime, unidentified mud footprints trekked in from outside, a mysterious room upstairs that is kept locked at all times, and many more inexplicable mysteries. But just when Molly and Kip decide they need to leave this dangerous place, the power of the tree lures them in. Can they save themselves? Is it too late to save the Windsor family?
“The Night Gardener” isn’t just a scary story, though. It is also a beautifully written fable about courage, family bonds, and the difference between a story and a lie. And the premise is really interesting: what would happen if the Tree of Life were eeeeevillll? (I just wanted to say that.) I am definitely adding this to my favorites and will reread it again and again.
This book is terrific! The creepiness builds steadily until the unbelievably dark seems totally plausible. That's one reason why I typically avoid scary stories - they seem so fake that it's hard for me to buy in to them. In this case, however, Auxier has crafted a tale that is wholly believable. He does it by starting with mundane and carefully adding the creepy, ghost elements.
Be warned, though, this book is not for the faint of heart. The idea of a creepy man walking around your house at night, standing over your bed, is sure to give some readers nightmares. Not to mention the collection of violent deaths and the super-creepy-soul-stealing tree.
Wonderfully written, beautifully paced, and populated by a cast of richly interesting characters, The Night Gardener kept me totally glued to the page.