K-Gr 3 Some stories should not be simplified, and The Secret Garden is one of them. While Howe has done an excellent job of adaptation, capturing important events and retaining the style of the original throughout, this is just not the Secret Garden that has lived for over 75 years to become a classic of children's literature. Reading the adapted version is rather like watching the videotape of a classic old movie like The Wizard of Oz on fast forward. Everything happens too fast. The exquisite characterization that made the fantastic changes in the sour orphan Mary Lennox, her fretful invalid cousin Colin, and his bitter father Archibald Craven seem possible, even logical, are lost. To simplify and shorten the story, two important characters, Ben Weatherstaff, the gardener, and Susan Sowerby, Colin's mother, have been omitted. The accompanying illustrations lack clarity, depth, and harmony. It would be a shame for children to replace the experience of the original with this Reader's Digest version. Constance A. Mellon, Department of Library & Information Studies, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.
Soothing and mellifluous, native Briton Bailey's voice proves an excellent instrument for polishing up a new edition of Burnett's story. Bratty and spoiled Mary Lennox is orphaned when her parents fall victim to a cholera outbreak in India. As a result, Mary becomes the ward of an uncle in England she has never met. As she hesitantly tries to carve a new life for herself at imposing and secluded Misselthwaite Manor, Mary befriends a high-spirited boy named Dickon and investigates a secret garden on the Manor grounds. She also discovers a sickly young cousin, Colin, who has been shut away in a hidden Manor room. Together Mary and Dickon help Colin blossom, and in the process Mary finds her identity and melts the heart of her emotionally distant uncle. Bailey makes fluid transitions between the voices and accents of various characters, from terse Mrs. Medlock and surly groundskeeper Ben to chipper housemaid Martha. And most enjoyably, she gives Mary a believably childlike voice. A brief biography of the author is included in an introduction. Ages 6-12. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.