If you’re here, chances are you’re already familiar with The Secret Garden. This timeless tale has captured the hearts of countless readers and viewers over the years. It’s a story that lingers in your thoughts, prompting reflection and posing intriguing questions. The characters are wonderfully complex—they can be frustrating yet exhilarating in their moments of happiness. Whether you’re rediscovering this story or introducing it to a new generation, I hope this review proves valuable. Share your own first encounter with The Secret Garden in the comments and let me know what this enchanting story has meant to you.

Summary

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a timeless classic that tells the story of Mary Lennox, a young girl who is sent to live with her uncle in a gloomy English manor after being orphaned. Lonely and neglected, Mary discovers a neglected garden hidden within the estate’s grounds. As she begins to tend to the garden with the help of new friends, including her cousin Colin and a local boy named Dickon, Mary’s spirits are lifted, and the magic of friendship and nature begins to transform her world.

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Age Level

Recommended for ages 8 and up, The Secret Garden is perfect for children and adults, as well. I had the pleasure of revisiting this story with my book club.

Book Club

For book clubs reading The Secret Garden, discussions can explore themes of personal growth, resilience, and the healing power of nature. Consider examining how each character’s journey parallels the growth of the garden itself.

When I read this book with my own book club, we spent a lot of time talking about the theme of nature. Francis Hodgson Burnett studied Christian Science in the early 1880s and incorporated a lot of the themes from what she was learning into her book. As a group of Christians, our beliefs did not align with the authors, but we still enjoyed talking about how, for us, God’s glory is evident in the beauty of creation.

We often use these questions from Sally Clarkson as part of our discussion:

  1. What beauty is there?
  2. Where do we see courage?
  3. Does anything remind us that we are not alone?

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of The Secret Garden, was a prolific writer known for her children’s literature. Born in England in 1849, her experiences living in both the United States and England influenced her writing style and settings. Burnett had two sons, which inspired her writing, as well as a love for gardening and the English countryside. Each of these important things shine through in the vivid descriptions in The Secret Garden.

Aesthetic of Illustrations and Book Covers

The numerous editions of The Secret Garden boast beautiful illustrations and covers that capture the story’s charm. From intricate line drawings to lush watercolors, these artistic renderings enhance the book’s enchanting aesthetic.

I have shared some of my favorite covers below, but this list is not an exhaustive list.

If you are looking for a print to frame and add to your home, be sure to look through some of the prints from The Journey of Books on Etsy. This is my sister’s shop and she has a great variety of sweet illustrations, many including quotes from the book.

Film Adaptations

There are a number of film adaptations of The Secret Garden, including a silent film that was made in 1919.

  • The first feature film was completed in 1949,
  • in 1975 a TV series was filmed,
  • a made-for-television adaptation was aired in 1987 (winning a Primetime Emmy the following year),
  • and the version that stands out most to me is the 1993 film.

Discussion Questions

If you are sharing this story with a group of friends in a book club, or wanting to discuss it as you read with your children, these questions will help guide you:

  • How does Mary’s character evolve throughout the story?
  • Discuss the significance of the secret garden as a metaphor for emotional healing.
  • How does the theme of friendship play out among the main characters?
  • Explore the role of nature in the story. How does the garden reflect the characters’ emotions?
  • What impact does the garden have on Colin’s transformation?
  • Compare and contrast Mary and Colin’s upbringing and their resulting personalities.
  • How does Dickon’s connection with animals symbolize his character?
  • Discuss the role of magic and mystery in the narrative.
  • Analyze the influence of the Yorkshire setting on the story’s mood and themes.
  • Reflect on the symbolism of the robin in the garden.

Book List: Aesthetic Publications

There are a number of books that have beautiful cover art and many with illustrations throughout the books. Here are some of my favorites:

A Little Princess
by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Another fantastic book written by the same author. This is one of my personal favorites!

The Secret Garden (Painted Edition)

The Secret Garden (Wordsworth Collection)

The Secret Garden (Puffin’s Clothbound Classics)

The Secret Garden (Wordsworth Exclusive Collection)

The Secret Garden (Seasons Edition — Spring)

The Secret Garden (Fingerprint! Classics)

The Secret Garden: A Graphic Novel
by Mariah Marsden

The Secret Garden: A BabyLit® Flowers Primer

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The Secret Garden remains a beautiful tale that celebrates the power of nature and friendship. Its charm continues to inspire readers of all ages to uncover their own secret gardens, both literal and metaphorical. Let the magic of Burnett’s storytelling whisk you away into a realm where hidden wonders await.

Find other book reviews and reading guides in our book review library, and be sure to check out my other resources to help you make the most of your reading time with your kids!

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