From the title of Jonathan Auxier’s fascinating, original (and more than a little creepy) version of a Victorian ghost story, one might suppose that The Night Gardener is, like The Secret Garden, a sweet, perhaps a bit sentimental, coming-of-age story. And while the novel does share some elements with the classic tale, including orphans (Molly and her little brother Kip); a creepy mansion; spoiled children (Penny and Alistair Windsor); and somewhat magical growing things, The Night Gardener is decidedly darker—in the most delicious and delightful way.
When Irish orphans Molly and Kip arrive to work at the Windsor estate, they find a family out of sorts, a father in financial trouble, curious muddy footprints and, of course, a mysterious room at the heart of the house. As Molly and Kip seek to free the Windsors and themselves from the malevolent presence that stalks the family, they find unexpected sources of courage and allies, including an old storyteller.
This is exactly the sort of scary, spooky story kids love.
Deborah Hopkinson lives near Portland, Oregon. Her most recent book for young readers is The Great Trouble.