“To those tending their own secret gardens”. A powerful dedication to start off a young reader’s visually vibrant journey through this well-known classic that has been beautifully adapted into graphic novel form.

This adaptation of The Secret Garden strays far from the plot of the original 1911 book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This version skips any and all references to Mary and her parent’s life in India. In the original book this is a central theme that is woven through Mary’s entire journey of self discovery and learning to navigate a world that is so very different from the one she was born into. Instead, this book starts off with Mary arriving in England, and being picked up by Martha, her new servant. We see the world through Mary’s eyes, as she discovers the moorland that her Uncle’s estate is situated on. She begins seeing the world with a whole new perspective, as she is forced to be more independent in taking care of herself, as well as managing her free time by finding things to keep her busy. No longer is she dressed by servants or entertained all day by others, now she has to use her imagination to explore all of the wildlife around her, and that is to occupy her days. 

Mary discovers the secret garden, which holds many memories for the family, some happy and some positively tragic. She meets her disabled cousin, Colin, and the nature loving, Dickon. Together the children play, plant seeds, and grow into much healthier and happier children. This is to the delight of Mary’s uncle, as he discovers the incredible transformation that has happened in his time away from home. Everyone shares a renewed sense of life. 

This adaptation doesn’t state that it’s abridged or a rewritten version until one of the last pages within a section titled, “Places and Spaces in the Secret Garden”. Here there is an explanation about why much of the storyline and sections were deliberately left out. The author, explains that this adaptation is intentionally not intended to be a true to the original novel. With this placement, many readers would likely skip over this black and white text portion at the very end of the book, thus leaving readers unaware that they are reading an entirely different story from Burnett’s intended messages, lessons, and tough moments. 

The artwork is wonderfully done, and captures the mood of the story as it progresses from dreary in the beginning, to slowly brightening as everyone grows happier. Blue and purple shades mark the dismal conditions that Mary faces initially, and the book slowly warms up to more reds, yellows greens and oranges. The artwork is purposeful in its design for the entire book in heightening the reader’s overall experience.                                                                                                    

This is a very edited version of the original novel. The author’s new version of the story flows well, and keeps the reader’s interest. However, it is not labeled as abridged, or as a re-telling of the original story, so if you are looking for something that has The Secret Garden story, this is missing so many pieces that it doesn’t capture the essence of the original work. The original is quite sad, and deals with a lot with themes of mortality, loss, loneliness, how these obstacles can be overcome and how you can come out the other side a stronger and better person from having had to deal with such hardships. Overall, this is a beautiful book that children would certainly enjoy even though the themes and storyline have been greatly altered.

The Secret Garden: A Graphic Novel
By Mariah Marsden
Art by  Hanna Luechtefeld
Andrews McNeel Publishing, 2021
ISBN: 9781524858155

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
Series ISBNs and Order
Related media: Book to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)

  • Kendra

    | She/Her

    Reviewer

    Kendra Perkins has worked at libraries in Canada, the U.A.E., China and South Korea where she has been everything from Founding Head Librarian to volunteer. She was Ambassador of China for the International Librarians Network, and she was elected to be Coordinator for the Shanghai Librarians Network (SLN), which is a community of almost 100 library professionals from more than 20 schools. She has completed her ALA accredited Masters in Library and Information Studies program at the University of Alberta. She has traveled to over 90 countries, learned to speak basic Mandarin Chinese along the way and kept up with too many graphic novel series to keep count. She has led workshops, created webinars and done library consultations in fun places like Italy and Hong Kong. She has been a guest blogger for multiple technology and education related websites and is a published book reviewer for Urban Family magazine. Find out more at her website, which she should update more frequently: http://www.theinspiredlibrarian.com

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