The Secret Garden: a graphic novel  – adapted by Mariah Marsden; illustrated by Hanna Luechtefeld

The Secret Garden: a graphic novel  – adapted by Mariah Marsden; illustrated by Hanna Luechtefeld. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2021. 9781524858155

Format: Paperback graphic novel

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

 What did you like about the book? Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic book is beautifully presented in this charming graphic novel.  The recently orphaned Mary Lennox arrives at her uncle’s English manor with a pout on her face and an attitude to match.  The stern housekeeper Mrs. Medlock advises her to stay in her room and not go where she is not welcome, but as Mary slowly befriends Martha, the maid, she is emboldened to go exploring.  Her first venture takes her out into the gardens, where she meets Ben, the gardener, and a friendly little robin who seems to be trying to tell her something.  She soon discovers a secret garden with a locked door, and learns that the garden belonged to her late aunt, and that her uncle closed the garden as a way to assuage his grief.  Mary soon meets Martha’s brother Dickon, a boy who seems to have a magical way with animals and plants, and who quickly becomes a cherished friend.  Mary is also troubled at night by the sound of crying, and when she discovers that it is coming from her sickly cousin Colin, she decides she wants to help him get well by bringing him out to the secret garden.

The dialog is kept quite simple, but certainly has an old-fashioned English tone to it and some characters do use a bit of the Yorkshire dialect.  The comic panels are easy to follow sequentially, despite varying in size, and many are wordless, allowing the illustrations to tell a lot about the story, the setting, and the emotions of the characters.  The color palettes perfectly reflect the landscape of the English moors, the gloomy interior of the estate, and the cheerful secret garden.  This is a faithful adaptation of Burnett’s original, except for the deliberate omission of Mary’s backstory as an English colonial in India (there is an author’s note explaining the decision to leave that out) and the death of her parents from a cholera outbreak.  It is not necessary for readers to be familiar with the story to enjoy this version; the values of kindness and creating one’s own happiness shine right through, as well as a sincere appreciation for nature.  Author’s notes and a glossary provide some important context.

 To whom would you recommend this book?  Upper elementary readers who have enjoyed graphic novel adaptations of classic books (including Marsden’s take on Anne of Green Gables) or who are fans of other versions of The Secret Garden will find this delightful.  

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Graphic novels, 741.5 

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: 7/17/2021

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