The Secret Garden
Grade Levels: 4-8 and above
The Secret Garden is one of those jewels of Victorian literature that stands the test of time; it continues to delight readers of all ages. Although it is told from, and faithfully represents, the perspective of a child, the timelessness of this book comes from the relevancy of its themes – neglect, pain, love, and growth. As the book leads us through the parallel recoveries of Mary and Colin, adults and children alike are reminded of the power of nurturing love in their own lives.
The story centers on Mary Lennox, a young girl growing up in British India. Although her parents were quite wealthy, they left her upbringing to servants which causes her to grow up both spoiled and lonely. When a cholera epidemic sweeps through the region, it kills everyone in the house except for Mary, who is later discovered and sent to live with her uncle in the Yorkshire moors. There, she finds a family in many ways as broken as her own and a cousin, Colin, whose physical state matches her emotional one. Together, they begin a journey to recovery supported by each other and the selfless love of childhood. The secret garden is both their sanctuary during this period as well as a symbol of their growth; as Colin’s health improves and Mary’s outlook brightens, the garden is brought to bloom. I’ll refrain from spoiling the ending here. Like the garden, some things should remain a secret until they’re ready. Instead, I’ll leave you with this quotation from the novel:
“One of the new 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 bad for one as poison. 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. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live... surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.
"Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”
Source: Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2998.The_Secret_Garden