The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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“However many years she lived, Mary always felt that she should never forget that first morning when her garden began to grow.”

Something wonderful is happening this spring. A garden is growing in a place called Sunflower Hill. Six 4th and 5th grade students and our school’s naturalist are planting flowers and making one of Inly’s “new” spaces more beautiful. When they take breaks from their planting and watering, I am reading The Secret Garden to them. It’s a novel the students have heard of or maybe even seen a movie version, but they have not read. Once I began to read it aloud, I could understand their initial confusion. Here’s a paragraph from Chapter 4:

“He found it on th’ moor with its mother when it was a little one an’ he began to make friends with it an’ give it bits o’ bread an’ pluck young grass for it. And it got to like him so it follows him about an’ it lets him get on its back. Dickon’s a kind lad an’ animals likes him.”

For today’s average 10-year-old, wading through sentences like that definitely limits how much they can enjoy the book. I decided that in the interest of our afternoon gardening adventure, we would read an abridged version. At first, I wasn’t sure this was the way to go. I felt unfaithful to my own loyalty to “real” books. But each of the girls will receive a copy of the original book and will be encouraged to view the abridged version as an introduction. My hope is that they will return to the book on their own and knowing the basic story, they will feel more confident about reading it.

In the meantime, we’re making bookmarks and talking about the roots of the the rhyme: Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.”  By later this spring, we should have a beautiful garden that the girls will definitely not want to keep secret!

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One thought on “The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

  1. Hi Shelley,

    I am sitting in a window in an English country house looking out on a friend’s back garden “whilst” reading your blog. Even the word “garden” conjures up different images here, more like “back yard” in the US. It’s where a family gathers for tea when the weather’s warm, where you play ball as a child, where you grow flowers, but not carelessly. People put a great deal of thought into arranging their back gardens in the UK. So not only are the British terms difficult for an American child to understand…the garden itself is an entirely different place that needs translation!

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