i‑Learner Education Centre

Teacher Diaries

Teacher Diaries: Mr. Adam – From Book to Book

A review of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Since my first moments reading before bed with my family, to running around my local library selecting anything that jumped out from the shelves, through to my current bookcase, the books I have read constitute a line which I can trace through my life. Many books point to different stages in my childhood, though there is a handful which grabbed me as a child and have followed me into adulthood. In keeping with this term’s theme of From Book to Book, I would like to share one of these books; one that captured me as a young reader (what child doesn’t want to know what’s behind the secret door?), and one that I regularly return to twenty years later.

The Secret Garden, in short, is the story of Mary and Colin as they warm to the world around them and to each other, as they grow from obstreperous and stubborn young naysayers into good-natured, sensitive, and gentle children. We see Mary transported from the tropics of colonial India onto the bleak Yorkshire moors, where all her previous pretenses of grandeur are stripped away. She discovers that the Manor is hiding secret after secret and, being the headstrong girl she is, Mary trots about looking behind closed doors and asking probing questions of tight-lipped adults. As the story progresses, she falls further and further down the rabbit hole that is the mystery of Misselthwaite Manor, Master Craven and the garden, and makes an unlikely companion in Colin along the way.

The two children’s growth is closely tied to their unravelling of the titular secret of the garden and the magic contained therein, as slowly their eyes are opened to the world around them. With this experience, the children come to understand more about their place in the world, and begin to ask themselves important questions about right and wrong, the relationships between the people around them, and the connection between people and nature. For me, Mary and Colin’s friendship and journey into the magic of the garden capture the essence of growing up. It is for this reason that I would recommend this book to my students. I feel children around eight to ten would enjoy following Mary into the secret garden to uncover the magic behind the locked door.