Exotic locations like India and the moors of Yorkshire, England. A mysterious mansion, full of strange sounds and secrets. Locked doors. Characters that you love to hate, then learn to love. Descriptions of beautiful scenic landscapes. Hints of tragedy. All of these ingredients together create the classic book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Although the book celebrated its 100th birthday in 2011, it is still an enjoyable read today.
Mary Lennox, a spoiled and obnoxious little girl, is left orphaned in India and sent to a live with an uncle she’s never met in Yorkshire, England. There she encounters a boy from the moors, Dickon, and her hidden cousin Colin, a bed-ridden invalid. With surprising humor and poignant tragedy, Frances Hodgson Burnett weaves a tale of mysteries and miracles that is sure to keep your daughter turning the pages!
The Secret Garden is near the top of my list of favorite books of all-time. I enjoyed it as a little girl and still today as an adult reading it with my daughters. When I first got the book for Big Sis when she was 10, I told her that we’d be starting it as our next read-aloud. She decided to look it over a little, waiting for our quiet time of reading while I did some other work around the house and with her little sisters. She was so intrigued by the description that she started to read it on her own, unable to wait for me! “I’ll just start it a little,” she said. Several pages later, she couldn’t put it down! “Is it okay if I keep reading?” she asked. I nodded, happy to know that this was the kind of book that fueled the imagination and stirred a love for reading.
Taking very few breaks just to fill me in on what was going on, she read the entire book by herself that day! At 331 pages, that’s no small feat! She related to 10-year-old Mary, a girl her age with many of her own thoughts. She could recognize that Mary’s spoiled behavior masked her true feelings in a kind of self-defense for the emotional blows she’d been dealt. Once again, it’s those kind of universal emotions that link girls through the generations and make a book a classic.
Many movies have been made of The Secret Garden. My favorite is the 1949 black and white classic with Margaret O’Brien as Mary. Big Sis and I watched it together and talked about what was different from the book and what was the same. It was a fun mother-daughter time!
Currclick offers a literature unit study of The Secret Garden. You can also find a great, free unit study from Lesson Pathways. It has tons of ideas and activities to go along with The Secret Garden. You can cover the subjects of history, geography, language arts, and science using The Secret Garden as your “textbook.” EasyFunSchool shares some great ideas for topics of study.
Frances Hodgson Burnett also wrote A Little Princess (another must-read for girls), The Lost Prince, and Little Lord Fauntleroy.
I won’t include The Secret Garden spoilers here since much of the fun of the book is in the discovery. Suffice it to say that the characters are changed for the better by the end of the story. The reader is left with a treasure to store away, too. It’s been a few years since Big Sis read The Secret Garden, but she still talks about it. It’s on our read-aloud list for this summer again and this time I’m going to make sure that I get to read it, too!