I’m part of the The Secret Garden on 81st Street blogtour and today it’s my turn to ramble! Don’t forget to check out all the other amazing posts!
Genre: Middle Grade Graphic Novel
Publishing date: October 19th, 2021
The Secret Garden with a twist: in this follow-up to Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, this full-color graphic novel moves Mary Lennox to a New York City brownstone, where she and her very first group of friends restore an abandoned rooftop garden…and her uncle’s heart.
Mary Lennox is a loner living in Silicon Valley. With her parents always working, video game and tech become her main source of entertainment and “friends.” When her parents pass away in a tragic accident, she moves to New York City to live with her uncle who she barely knows, and to her surprise, keeps a gadget free home. Looking for comfort in this strange, new reality, Mary discovers an abandoned rooftop garden and an even bigger secret…her cousin who suffers from anxiety. With the help of her new friends, Colin and Dickon, Mary works to restore the garden to its former glory while also learning to grieve, build real friendships, and grow.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is one of my very, very favourite books. So far, I have already read one other Graphic novel adaption that came out this year. I’ll let you know that while I really love The Secret Garden – or probably especially because of that – I’m very curious about adaptations and am very picky about it.
The story of The Secret Garden on 81st Street is a reimagening of the classic story in a modern way. It tells the story of Mary, who, after the death of her parents, moves across the country from LA to New York to live with her uncle. Her new homes hides a lot of secrets and the more Mary explores the more mysteries she unearths.
Since the original story has been uprooted and planted into a modern setting, it’s clear that some of the plot and the characters had to change to fit its new bed, so to speak. It made sense to me at some points – for example, Ben Waterstaff is not a grumpy old gardener but the owner of a bodega around the corner who also sells flower seeds and bulbs or Modern Colin suffers from bad anxiety attacks instead of muscle atrophy. Especially the anxiety attacks Colin suffers from were really well implemented and very well explained to a young audience. And I absolutely loved the idea of a secret rooftop garden.
Unfortunately there were also things that didn’t make much sense to me. For example about Mary’s character. The whole point of the original book were that both Mary and Colin had really bad characters. They were spoiled and mean and only their growing bond as cousins (or more like siblings) and friends and their work in the secret garden helped them overcome their selfishness. In this adaptation there doesn’t seem anything to be wrong with Mary characterwise. She is not spoiled or snotty or mean and that confused me a little because I could not really figure out what her character development should be. Colin was just a boy who had anxieties. His outbursts were not a characterflaw, he was just scared.
Furthermore, I found no logic reason, why Mary and Colin of this modern adaptation should not know about each other. I’m sorry to say but that was just a little stupid and unbelievable.
Otherwise, I quite enjoyed the new story with the modern twist. I quite liked the art too. There were lots of great lessons for young readers hidden in this graphic novel and I think that a young reader might quite enjoy this read, like the pictures and learn a thing or two about grief, anxiety, trying new things, friendship and family.
LIvy Noelle Weir is a writer of comics and prose. She is the co-creator of the Dwayne McDuffie Award-winning graphic novel Archival Quality (Oni Press), the upcoming The Secret Garden on 81st Street (Little, Brown for Young Readers), and her writing has appeared in anthologies such as Princeless: Girls Rock (Action Lab Entertainment) and Dead Beats (A Wave Blue World). She lives in the greater Boston area with her husband and their two tiny, weird dogs.