The Night Garden
Polly Horvath (Juvenile Fiction)
Despite the war overseas, life was fairly predictable and peaceful in the spring of 1945 for the family at East Sooke Farm. Twelve-year-old Franny Whitekraft had her writing; her mother, Thomasina (Sina for short), had her sculpting; and her father, Old Tom, had his gardens—his many, many gardens. There was the English garden, herb garden, Japanese garden, Italian garden, kitchen garden, statuary garden…but perhaps the most mysterious and closely-guarded garden of all was the night garden. That garden Old Tom kept locked up nice and tight. So, days floated by with little fanfare until one day, Crying Alice (that’s Mrs. Alice Madden to you and me) showed up on the Whitekraft doorstep and dropped off her three children: Wilfred, Winifred, and Zebediah. You see, her husband, Fixing Bob (who does maintenance on the Canadian Air Force’s special plane), is going to do something stupid and she simply has to go and talk some sense into him. Now, if three new houseguests weren’t enough, just throw in a UFO, ghost, psychic, several mysterious letters, mermaids, and a missing plane and you’ve got a recipe for anything BUT a predictable and peaceful spring.
This is the second book by Polly Horvath that I’ve had the pleasure of reading (the first being The Canning Season) and she continues to amaze and please with her witty dialogue and amusing situations. Horvath not only entertains her young readers, but she manages to educate them as well. She’s an English teacher’s dream as she dishes out a veritable smorgasbord of delicious words to savor: presaged, traversed, bereft, contiguous, compeers, and ilk. Aren’t they scrumptious? She also delights us with an assortment of quirky characters that we feel inexplicably drawn to—not in spite of their flaws and rough edges, but because of them.
The Night Garden is a non-stop, heart-thumping thrill ride that will excite and enthrall readers of all ages. It is a story of family and a love that is blind, slightly deaf, and a little bit thick, but love amongst family is often like that. The Night Garden also provides us with many valuable lessons—from Miss Macy’s advice on being prepared (“Always wear clean underwear.”) to Franny’s philosophy on self-sacrifice (“Well, we were all put on this earth to suffer.”). But perhaps it is Old Tom himself who best sums up the greatest lesson of all, “Never, ever, ever have houseguests!” Old Tom is seldom wrong.
* Book cover image attributed to http://www.goodreads.com