The Best Secret Garden

The Best Secret Garden

“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?”

Recently while browsing through pages of art from children’s books, I stumbled upon a Russian blog that had posted pictures from the most beautiful illustrated copy of The Secret Garden. Dozens of pictures. Beautiful, detailed, lavish pictures that cunningly captured the magic of the novel. They even got Mary Lennox right, her sharpness and sallowness (when I was a kid I never knew what “sallow” meant) that grows less sharp and more rosy toward the end of the novel. Mostly, I was stuck by how many illustrations there were. That blog is almost certainly in copyright violation, but I’m not sure I’d have bought the book based on just a handful of pretty pictures, no matter how pretty. It was the sheer volume of them. I knew I had to have this book.

So I bought a copy of The Secret Garden, illustrated by Inga Moore, right away and then generously gave it away to Sophie for her 9th birthday. We did have a copy of the novel already, of course, but it was nothing special. This one, with an illustration on almost every page, is something to cherish and treasure, a rare work of art, a clear labor of love.

Moore is an excellent observer of animals and plants and some of the page spreads remind me very much of beloved nature journals like The Country Flowers of a Victorian Lady and The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. Her work also calls to mind the beautifully observant work of the illustrations of Beatrix Potter. Page after page of birds and flowers alternate with delightful renderings of Mary, Colin, Dickon, Martha, Ben Weatherstaff, and Mrs Sowerby. Nor does Moore neglect to bring Misselthwaite Manor to life. And Bella was delighted at the big landscape spread of the moors: “Oh I never knew what a moor looked like! Now I can see it!”

Every family’s library should contain a copy of this beautiful illustrated book.

“Where you tend a rose my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”

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