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Tom Long is sent to stay with his aunt and uncle when his brother contracts measles. They have no children, and live in a flat, converted from a big old house, with no garden.
Bored, lonely and restless, he has trouble sleeping.
On the first night, lying in bed, he hears the old clock in the communal hallway strike thirteen.
Intrigued, he gets up to go and investigate. When he opens the back door, he finds a huge garden.
There is something strange about the children inside though. They wear old-fashioned clothing, and most of them seem unable to see him.
In fact, the only person who does seem able to see him is a small girl called Hatty.
Hatty is lonely. The house belongs to her aunt and she does not really fit in with her cousins. Tom visits her every night, and the two play in the garden. But why can no-one else see him? And why is Hatty growing quickly?
Like The Secret Garden, the central character in this book is very lonely, and separated from his family. He also finds other children, and through them he finds friendship. This friendship revolves around the garden, and there is a touch of mystery surrounding the whole book.
My last offering for books like The Secret Garden.
Tolly is on his way to stay with his great-grandmother in the family house, Green Knowe. His parents are in Burma, and he is looking forward to going to somewhere he feels he belongs after spending his last holiday with his headteacher.
Green Knowe has been in the family for generations, and Tolly is fascinated by the stories his great-grandmother has to tell him about the children who have come before him.
As Tolly explores the house and grounds, he begins to find things around the grounds that are connected to the children. And as he finds out more from the stories people tell him, the children begin to seem increasingly real.
And then doubt creeps in – are the children in the past, or are they present, somehow, in the house?
The best place to start when you’re looking for more books like The Secret Garden is with an equally brilliant book by the same author.
This also starts with a little girl used to privilege after a pampered upbringing in India. But in this case, 7 year old Sara Crewe has something that Sara Lennox didn’t – the devotion of a parent. Her father (her mother died when she was young) enrols her at Miss Minchin’s boarding school.
For four years she enjoys luxury at the school. Then tragedy strikes.
Her father is presumed dead, and Sara’s life is upended. Miss Minchin has never truly liked Sara, and now the cheques are no longer rolling in, she makes Sara work for her food and board. The education stops, Sara is banished to an attic room, and works as a scullery maid.
Hungry and cold, Sara survives by using her imagination to change her cold attic room into a warm, comfortable retreat.
And then the room really is transformed. But how? And by whom?
This is a ‘riches to rags’ story. Despite her life of luxury, Sara is a humble, kind child, who takes time to befriend some of the least popular children at the school. These children then prove a lifeline for Sara as her life unravels.
The central characters are polar opposites. Sara Crewe is almost too good to be true, while Sara Lennox is a little madam. In Sara Lennox’s case, finding a companion like Dickon changed her life for the better. In contrast, Sara Crewe was that companion who had a positive impact on those around her, no matter how dire her own circumstances.
Both children, though, lack the warmth and security of a family, and look to other children for affection.
Now it’s your turn. If you had to recommend stories like The Secret Garden, what would you choose? Have you read any of those mentioned above and do you agree with their inclusion in this piece?
Tell us what you think.