Opened book with a wonderful world inside.
Blog 04.15.2021

The Secret Garden


Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 children’s novel The Secret Garden is a magical story of hope and beauty that continues to thrill readers.

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

(Illustration by M.L. Kirk)

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a classic piece of children’s literature that has endured the test of time. Published in 1911 by English author Burnett—who was already famous for her previous two children’s novels, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1885-86) and The Little Princess (1905)—The Secret Garden is known for its depiction of themes such as rebirth, growth, regeneration and new beginnings.

Set in Yorkshire, along the Moors, at a country estate called Misselthwaite Manor, the protagonist (a young girl of ten called Mary) comes to live with her uncle and cousin after the death of her parents. Her young cousin, Colin, also lost his mother and is thought to be an invalid (and is practically abandoned by his father as well), but, thanks to Mary, realizes that he isn’t really sick and can live a normal, happy childhood. The book is centered around a garden that has been locked and left to ruin (after the matriarch of the family succumbed to a tragic accident inside its stone walls). Mary finds the buried key to the garden and, along with a neighbor friend, Dickon (who has a green thumb), works to restore the garden to its original splendor and lush beauty. With this act, they open up the hearts of everyone at Misselthwaite Manor. Young Mary, Colin, and her grief-stricken uncle, Mr. Craven, become a family that is, at once, filled with hope for the first time since their tragic loss.

Universal Symbolism

(Illustration by Charles Robinson, 1912)

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

  • The hidden garden is a metaphor for life and what happens when we neglect it. If we tend a garden, it will bloom. Just like life, hope regenerates and we can thrive if we take the time to care and to nurture each other as well as ourselves.

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

  • The Secret Garden is the perfect book for spring (especially now); when we read it, we realize that each year, when the spring season comes, there are new and endless possibilities. With each new day, there are opportunities for good things to happen and, when we plant a garden, we are putting our faith in the future, in all its uncertainty and potential splendor.


(Illustration by Charles Robinson)

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.”

  • The Secret Garden wasn’t as well-received as one might think upon publication but, over the years, has garnered readership of all ages and has been adapted into stage plays and numerous films.
  • It is considered to be one of the very best children’s novels of the twentieth century.

For more information on children’s literature, what you should be reading now, and how to spark your imagination, visit Full Cycle Publications.

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