The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Published By: Sterling

Year of Publication: 1909

Categories:Middle Grade, Classic, Fiction

Pages: 248

Summary (from goodreads.com): Mistress Mary is quite contrary until she helps her garden grow. Along the way, she manages to cure her sickly cousin Colin, who is every bit as imperious as she. These two are sullen little peas in a pod, closed up in a gloomy old manor on the Yorkshire moors of England, until a locked-up garden captures their imaginations and puts the blush of a wild rose in their cheeks; “It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of roses which were so thick, that they matted together…. ‘No wonder it is still,’ Mary whispered. ‘I am the first person who has spoken here for ten years.'” As new life sprouts from the earth, Mary and Colin’s sour natures begin to sweeten. For anyone who has ever felt afraid to live and love, The Secret Garden‘s portrayal of reawakening spirits will thrill and rejuvenate. Frances Hodgson Burnett creates characters so strong and distinct, young readers continue to identify with them even 85 years after they were conceived.

Review: The last time I had read The Secret Garden was 7 or 8 years ago. I remember liking it, but it not being one of my favorite classics. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate the outdoors, and flowers and plants in particular, a lot more. For the last three years I’ve worked growing and selling native wildflowers. And if you didn’t know, they’re AMAZING! They grow all by themselves, every year, with no help (no water or fertilizers or weeding from people). Whenever I look at them when I’m out on a walk in a park or on a hike in the mountains I can’t help by smile. They make me happy.

So it’s from this place of added appreciation of flowers that I read this book again. and boy did it make a difference. Whenever plants were described I could practically see them in my head, putting the garden together in my head as Mary and Dickon worked away. It’s enough to make someone want to go immediately spend time outside.

I loved the fact that the more time that Mary and Colin spent outside in the garden, the more they healed – whether it be physically or emotionally. I know that to be true in real life as well – there’s just something about plants and nature that makes you feel good, that gives you the opportunity to figure things out. My boss has told me that several employees that she’s had over the years seemed to come to work for her when they were dealing with some pretty heavy duty stuff, and by the time they left, they had seemed to be getting better. It’s not just fiction that nature is healing.

Even if you’re not much of a gardener, I think the beauty of the outdoors will still be apparent. It’s hard not to be drawn into the beauty of the English moorlands. I can just picture Mary, Colin, and Dickon working away with the robin watching over them. It’s hard to not smile when you think of that.

If you haven’t read this classic before, I definitely recommend it. You can’t go wrong reading about the transforming power of nature.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I bought this book.

Haint Misbehavin’ by Maureen Hardegree

Published by: Bell Bridge Books

Year of Publication: 2010

Categories: Middle Grade, Ghost, Series.

Pages: 222

Summary (from Goodreads): The start of a fun middle-grade series, The Ghost Handlers, follows Heather Tildy, an Atlanta teen with a troublesome habit of attracting ghosts. Middle-child Heather has enough to worry about with sisters, boys and school. Now that a trouble-making girl from the 1800’s is poking her nose in Heather’s business, her life has taken a supernatural turn for the worse! Before her life can get better, she has to figure out how to help the ghost move on.

Debut author Hardegree is a veteran short-story author for the well-known MOSSY CREEK HOMETOWN series. She plans multiple titles in this warm and funny YA series.

Review: Main character Heather has a lot going on. She desperately wants her older (and popular) sister to like her, so that her first year of high school will start off on the right foot. She wants to be seen as popular instead of as weird and nerdy. I think just about everyone felt that way starting high school, I know I did. I wanted to be seen a cool and popular. I wanted people to like me. It really brought me back to my first few weeks of high school, trying to find my place.

Heather also has to worry about the monster sized crush she has on Drew, one of the lifeguards at the outdoor pool that she goes to. He’s cute, and older, and she wants to impress him, just like in one of the many daydreams that she has about him.

As if the transition from junior high to high school wasn’t enough to deal with, there’s also the matter of the ghost that has attached herself to Heather. Her name is Amy, and she’s from the last century. Heather has to help her deal with something before she can move on, but Amy is no help at all with figuring that out. All she wants to do is play with water, make everyone think Heather is absolutely crazy, and get in the way of her plays for popularity.

I thought the characters were definitely what made this book so enjoyable. It was a quick read, and a lot of fun to follow along with what was going to happen to Heather next. It’s a book that just about any tween will enjoy reading, because there’s so much for them to relate to Heather with.

I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the next book in The Ghost Handler series.

Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the author’s website.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Seaglass Summer by Anjali Banerjee

Published by: Wendy Lamb Books

Year of Publication: 2010

Categories: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Fiction

Pages: 163

Summary (from Goodreads): Eleven-year-old Poppy Ray longs to be a veterinarian, but she’s never had a pet. This summer, she’s going to spend a month with her uncle Sanjay, veterinarian and owner of the Furry Friends Animal Clinic on an island off the Washington coast.

Poppy is in for big surprises. She loves tending to the dogs, cats, and even a bird, and she discovers the fun of newborn puppies and the satisfaction of doing a good job. But she learns that there’s more to caring for animals than the stethoscope and cotton swabs in her Deluxe Veterinarian First-Aid Kit. She’s not prepared for quirky pet owners, gross stuff, or scary emergencies. With help from a boy named Hawk, a chunk of seaglass, and a touch of intuition, Poppy gains a deeper understanding of the pain and joy of working with animals.

With warmth and humor, Anjali Banerjee tells the story of a resourceful, determined girl who can’t wait to grow up, but begins to realize just how much she has left to discover.

Review: This is such a cute book. It’ll appeal to any tween who likes animals – and really, what tween doesn’t like animals?

I thought Poppy was a great character. She was just like me when I was eleven – I thought I knew a lot more than I actually did, and I didn’t like people to know that I was scared. While Poppy wouldn’t admit it to anyone, she was nervous about spending the summer with her uncle, away from her parents. And on the first day at the vet clinic, she got a rude awakening about how much she thought she knew and could do to help.

While not everything turns out well for the animals at her uncle’s vet clinic, that’s what makes the book so likable. It would have been easy for the author to make sugarcoat the sad parts, but instead she makes the reader feel the grief and sorrow just like the characters do – something I really enjoyed, even though I was near tears at one point.

One of my favorite things about Seaglass Summer was the setting. Poppy’s uncle lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest. The descriptions of the lush forests, and the sunny beaches were great. I ended up reading it on a cold and snowy afternoon, and it made me crave sunshine and warmth. The setting gave the book a great place to happen in.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I won this book in a contest.

What I Learned From Being A Cheerleader by Adrianne Ambrose

Published by: Belle Books

Year of Publication: August 24, 2010

Categories: Middle Grade

Pages: 202

Summary (from Goodreads): Eleven-year-old Elaine Rewitzer is funny, smart and happy being a geek, but when she wins a spot on the Cross Creek Middle School Buccaneers cheerleading squad, she gets totally into her new life. Her mega-brain best friend Bethany warns that Elaine will just become “part of the herd,” and her best geek-guy-pal, Tim, (who‛s struggling with nose polyps) feels forgotten. Will Elaine survive the roller coaster of pre-teen cheerleader fame? Will she win the heart of the cutest boy on the basketball team? Will she confess her “uncool” love for comic books? Will she lose Bethany and Tim‛s friendship for-evah? AND WHEN WILL SHE GET HER POM POMS???

Review: I really enjoyed reading this book, it was truly great. I think most of the credit has to go to Elaine, because she’s such a great character that I fell in love with instantly.

It’s in the format of Elaine’s diary, which I thought was perfect for this story. You really got a sense of what Elaine was like from the way she described people and events. It was great to have her point of view.

I saw a lot of Elaine in myself when I was 11 or 12. I wanted to be popular, yet I liked hanging out with my “nerdy” friends, cause well, they were like me, nerdy. While I liked them, I still wanted to be like the popular girls in my class. I thought she was a very honest character – she felt all the same things I think I would have felt in her situation when things happened (whether they were positive or negative). There was no sugarcoating the consequences when she made a bad decision. I also found her to be strong and gutsy when she had to be. I think that’s a great thing to have in a character that tweens will read about.

Being a tween is such a hard age. You’re trying to figure yourself out, right at the time when you’re also trying to juggle school, friends, popularity, family, just discovering girlfriends/boyfriends – there’s a lot going on! It’s tough to be true to yourself and authentic to who you are when all you want is to fit in with everyone else and not stick out. I thought this book gives the reader a great look into Elaine’s journey to try to figure that out for herself.

I would recommend this book in a heartbeat to any tween. It has a great message while at the same time being funny and honest.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I got this book from the publisher for review.