Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Secret Allure of The Secret Garden

At this time of year I love to dip into some of my favourite illustrated children's books and put them on display on my book shelf.  Nothing lifts the spirit better than Inga Moore's illustrated version of 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Just to see it resting there seems to blow the cobwebs of winter away and reminds me that soon the warmth of summer will be here.
This timeless classic celebrates the joy of watching the earth come to life in springtime.  As each tender green shoot gently pushes up out of the soil, the main character, the cold and distant Mary Lennox, comes to life and learns to love.  Orphaned in India by her British parents, Mary has been sent home to Misselthwaite Manor in the wilds of Yorkshire, to live with her mysterious uncle Mr Craven.  He too is still mourning the loss of his beautiful young wife and spends little time in the big, old house.  It is here that Mary discovers the secret, overgrown garden and a secret, under-grown, cousin, Colin Craven, whose weak, twisted body is the visual manifestation of his father's neglect.
The novel is full of wonderful characters, such as the trusty Dickon, and the relentless Mrs Medlock, who all, in their way, succeed in helping the children come to terms with the loss of their parents.  Indeed, there is much sadness in the book, with death hanging like a shadow in the background, but ultimately, there is hope and joy.  The garden, with its vibrant potential for endless possibility delights and charms the children.
 Here they create their private universe, where grown-ups never venture and they can rule the world.  The garden, with its seasonal, never changing patterns adds structure to the lives of these children who have been so spoilt in the past by neglectful parents and compliant servants.  
The garden too allows them to remember who they are in the scheme of things: that they are young, and should be allowed to behave as such; to run, laugh and play without guilt or fear of being chided.  It is from the garden that the children gain the strength to cast off the chains of sickness and death, to move forward and embrace life.
Spring is ringing out from every branch on every page of this book.  And this beautiful, hardback, illustrated edition brings the soft, red, glow of the tiny robin, and the dizzying yellow haze of blooming daffodils, to life before our eyes in the way that only a children's' book can.  So, forget chocolate this Easter: order Inga Moore's illustrated version of 'The Secret Garden' today.  Your inner child will thank you.

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