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The Secret Garden
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Gr 1-4-- Although this abridged version of Burnett's classic novel retains the order of narrative events found in her work, the bare-bones style has little of the flavor of the original. The condensation all but eliminates descriptive passages and fails to develop characters such as Ben Weatherstaff, Susan Sowerby, and Archibald Craven. The time from Colin's entry into the garden through his recovery is severely compressed. Nor can the illustrations earn a purchase recommendation on their own merits. Figures are stiff and lifeless, and the colors are unappealing. In the final painting, for example, the complexions of all the characters are a sickly green. Adults who want to share their own remembered enjoyment of Burnett's work with their children would be well advised to read the original aloud to young listeners or wait until they are old enough to read the complete novel themselves. --Kathy Piehl, Mankato State University, MN

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.

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