This week, I read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett for about the twentieth time. I first read The Secret Garden when I was nine and borrowed it off my best friend’s bookshelf. We often played in one of the local gardens together, so she thought I’d love the book since it was “full of flowers.” She was right—and over the next couple of months I must have borrowed her copy two or three times before I finally saved up enough money to buy my own. I still have it, still read it, and it has been much worn and much loved over the many years since then.
There were many things I found magical about The Secret Garden as a child. Who wouldn’t want a beautiful garden all their own, locked away from the rest of the world, overrun with roses and lilies and daffodils and all sorts of beautiful growing things? I loved the old-fashioned setting where people relied on ships and trains and carriages to reach their far-flung destinations instead of cars and airplanes. I loved the colorful cast of characters, many of whom spoke in a charming Yorkshire accent that I couldn’t quite reproduce out loud no matter how hard I tried. I loved Dickon’s way with animals and wished I was talented enough to entice fox cubs, squirrels, and birds to sit on my shoulder and follow my every step. And because I lived in such a warm, sunny climate, I was entranced by the idea of romantic, rainy moors where the wind “wurthered” throughout the night.
I think even back then, I appreciated the book’s themes of regeneration—of a garden, an outlook on life, a family. I loved the idea of the transformative powers of nature. Of course, I couldn’t articulate these thoughts as a nine-year-old, but I knew these themes were there and loved them all the same. As an adult, I’m probably even more appreciative of quite power that comes off the pages when I read the book, of hope, redemption, regrowth, and rebirth.
When I finished The Secret Garden last week, it was the first time I’d read it in a couple of years, and it was a lovely reminder that I need to revisit some of the classic books of my childhood a little more often. If there is one book forever linked to my childhood love of reading, it’s definitely The Secret Garden. Sometimes, I get so caught up in new releases about magic and monsters and aliens and secret societies, I forget the quiet beauty of some of the classical works of children’s literature. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the exciting new books that make their way onto bookstore shelves as much as the next person. (Maybe even MORE than the next person.) But I’m trying harder these days not to forget some of the amazing stories that have been entrancing readers since long before I was a child reader myself. After all, they’re classics for a reason.
What classic books made your childhood magical?
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