Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Century Later: The Secret Garden

Illustrated by Robert Ingpen, Sterling, $19.95 (hbk)
Frances Hodgson Burnett's beloved tale of a neglected girl and the secret garden that transforms her life and the lives of her uncle and ill cousin turns 100 this year.

Published in 1911, The Secret Garden is the story of 10-year-old Mary Lennox, who goes to live with her reclusive uncle after her parents' death and restores a garden that inspires them all.

As she tends the garden, Mary transforms from a standoffish, sour girl who never knew love to a caring niece who helps her uncle overcome grief and her unhappy cousin find the hope to get better.

In celebration of its centennial year, I've posted two beautiful new editions of the book, one illustrated by the inimitable Robert Ingpen and the other with cover art by needlepoint artist Jillian Tamaki, along with favorite quotes and a fun fact.

Both of the following quotes are from Chapter 23, "Magic," after the garden comes alive and Mary, her friend Dickon and her wheelchair-bound cousin Colin are brimming with joy at seeing the plants burst to life:

Cover embroidery by Jillian Tamaki, Penguin, $16 (pbk)
The first describes the return of roses to the secret garden and echoes the positive feelings growing inside Mary and Colin as each realizes that thinking good thoughts can makes their lives happier.

"Rising out of the grass, tangled round the sun-dial, wreathing the tree trunks and hanging from their branches, climbing up the walls and spreading over them with long garlands falling in cascades -- they come alive day by day, hour by hour. Fair fresh leaves, and buds -- and buds -- tiny at first but swelling and working Magic until they burst and uncurled into cups of scent delicately spilling themselves over the brims and filling the garden air."

The second one is a quote from Colin. Once cross and self-pitying, he is now bursting with hope, as he watches buds determinedly push their way up through the soil in his late mother's garden.

"'Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,' he said wisely one day, ' but people don't know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment.' "

And lastly, here's a fun fact about the book:

The working title for The Secret Garden was actually Mistress Mary, as Mary's obstinate demeanor at the beginning matched the personality of the character in the English nursery rhyme Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.

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