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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: secret garden, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 13 of 13
1. The Secret Garden - The Original Broadway Musical

My sister, Bella, has (or had?) this blog party thingy going on over at her blog. I'm not going to do the whole thing - I'm lazy that way. But I am going to do a blog post from #9 on her list:

My favourite book-to-musical adaption.

I'll be honest, guys. Phantom is my favourite. I basically grew up with that. It was the first musical I ever listened to. However, I feel like I harp on that all the time, so I'm NOT going to do The Phantom of the Opera. I'm going to do my second favourite.

The Secret Garden.

Actually, the way I came to this musical is kinda funny. I've always loved the Phantom. Always, always, always. Sarah Brightman, Michael Crawford, and Steve Barton are IT! (Sorry, I go for passionate musicality over straight-out pitchy passion - Sierra, Ramin, I like you, but c'mon, you're professionals. Can't you sing the notes on key?) However, my best friend in the whole wide world is a fan of Les Mis, and we share music back and forth. I had her listen to the Original Cast Recording of Phantom, and she let me listen to the Complete Symphonic Recording of Les Mis, with Gary Morris as Veljean, Philip Quast as Javert, Michael Ball as Marius, and the one and only Anthony Warlow as Enjolras. (You notice I only mention the male singers. That's because Les Mis, like all the rest of the musicals out there, tend to go in for busty-voiced singers, or high-pitched vibratos, and I hate it.) I liked Les Mis, though the lack of musicality always annoyed me. However, I was quite wildly fond of Anthony Warlow's fabulous interpretation of Enjolras, and I WAITED for those moments when his voice would swoop in and save the day (and the musical).
 I do not know why they stuck that
ugly brown wig on his head, though.

I started digging, to see what other songs he sang, and discovered he was the lead singer of Jekyll and Hyde on the Concept Album (which, by the way, is the ONLY version to listen to. David Hasselhoff is a huge and crying letdown over Anthony Warlow's incredible delivery as Jekyll). Then, I realized Anthony Warlow had CDs!! Surprise, surprise, right? I got his Best of Act One CD, and on that CD was a song called "Lily's Eyes" that he sang with Philip Quast.
This is probably my favourite version of this song, even though
the Original Cast is my overall favourite. Anthony Warlow and
Philip Quast as Archibald and Neville Craven are amazing. 

I researched to see which musical this came from, and found THE SECRET GARDEN.

I am fond of the book. I never much cared for the pantheistic element to the story, where the garden becomes this sort of godlike entity and is responsible for all the good that happens to the characters. But I have always liked to read the story, so I can forgive a lot.

In the musical, I feel a lot of that mysticism is muted. Instead, the garden seems more like a refuge, a place that Mary makes her own, and it's her love of the garden that lends it that sense of magic. Also, Daisy Eagan as Mary is gold. And also, Rebecca Luker. 'Nough said 'bout that.

What I love about the musical version of the Secret Garden is that fabulous blend of music and dialogue that The Phantom of the Opera captures so well, and which (IMHO) many musicals lack. For instance, in Phantom, when characters read the notes received from the Phantom, the way the music is written is basically how one would inflect their voice while reading aloud.

In Les Mis, it's like this clunky crash of chords that I just don't get.

Secret Garden emulates Phantom in the sense that it IS very musical, every bit of it, dialogue and chorus and all. There is not a bit that sounds dissonant or ill-fitted.

The best version is the Original Broadway Cast Recording, starring Mandy Patinkin as Archibald Craven, Rebecca Luker as Lily, Daisy Eagan as Mary, and James Cameron Mitchell as Dickon. (I have a fondness for the Australian version that I don't own, because Anthony Warlow is Archibald Craven and Philip Quast plays his brother Neville, and they have FABULOUS voices, but the rest of the cast is lacking. Seriously lacking. Trust us, precioussss.)

The Secret Garden is the story about Mary Lennox, a little girl born in India and raised more by servants and housemaids than by her parents. She is sent to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, in his house in York, after an outbreak of cholera kills her parents and pretty much the entire household, leaving her the sole survivor.

At the beginning of the story, Mary really is an unpleasant child, sickly and foul tempered. Her mood is not helped by Uncle Archie, a brooding, "miserable hunchback" who wanders through the house, still grief-struck over the death of his wife, Lily, who died about 10 years ago.

The house is also haunted by far-off cries, which Mary is forbidden to seek out. Instead, when her maidservant, Martha, tells her about a secret garden, Mary decides to find it.
 Her hunt for the garden sends her roaming the moors outside the manor. The exercise and fresh air invigorates her. She becomes friends with an old gardener, Ben Weatherstaff, and Martha's brother, Dickon, as well as a robin redbreast that lives in the secret garden. 

With the robin's help, Mary finds the entrance to the garden, and she and Dickon begin to secretly tend the neglected flowers. But not even the garden can help her ignore the distant, mysterious cries. Flagrantly disregarding orders, Mary hunts out the source of the cries and discovers Colin, Uncle Archie's invalid son who everyone in the household believes will die an early death. Since Archie cannot bear to look at his son, being reminded too acutely of Lily, Colin has been hidden away, his every whim granted by the servants that wait on him. Fantastically spoiled, Colin meets his match in Mary, who refuses to put up with his tantrums.

Believing Colin's sickness to be more in his mind, Mary thinks that the surest cure for Colin is for him to spend time in the secret garden. The good air works the same rejuvenating magic it did on Mary, and Colin begins to improve. Eventually they are discovered, but Archie is so grateful to what Mary has done for Colin that he finally accepts her and loves her as his own, and Mary finds the home she never had with her own parents.

Take a listen to this version of I HEARD SOMEONE CRYING (The voice at the very beginning doing the vocalise is Rebecca Luker. Come on. You can't beat THAT voice.)

I love the absolute crystalline quality Rebecca brings to Lily's voice. It is so soaring, clear and gorgeous, and what I desperately look for in most musicals these days. I can't stand the belting Broadway sound (Idina Menzel, for example. It's not pretty. I'm sorry. Not a fan.)
Me when listening to Idina's voice...

I also love Mary's voice. She sounds like a little girl. She doesn't sound trained. I can't stand it when little girls have these ridiculous vibratos and don't sound like little girls. I like that Mary has a natural sound to her voice. It's another one of those things I desperately look for in musicals, and never find. (Darn it, Cosette, you're like... six! Can't you sound like it?!)

This quartet is really, really good. I love when musicals have these songs where each singer has a different line to sing, and then everyone sings together, and it's just like... *shiver*. (Skip about 20 seconds into this one. This QUARTET is fabulous and the blend of voices is perfect.)

I love how, in this song, Lily doesn't sound angry. I've heard so many versions where the female singers are like, "No, me!" and they just over-sing the men, and it, again, drives me crazy. Here, Lily just sort of soars over them by virtue of being soprano, and she sounds more like a loving Lily, not a confrontational Lily. She sounds like she truly loved Archie, not like she married him to spite her sister, Rose, which is how a lot of Lilys sound. (Why are singers so angry in their performances? Can't we have gentle solos? When did passion in music become rage?)
One really cool thing the writers did with this musical, is they took a lot of the 
people who died - Lily, Mary's parents - and made them ghosts, and these "ghosts"
came to life in picture frames. Which is why Lily is sitting in this picture frame here.

And also, in my opinion, this is the best Dickon ever. Just, don't even try. This WINTER'S ON THE WING is the bestest version ever. James Cameron Mitchell NAILS Dickon.

My first introduction to Mandy Patinkin was as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bridge. Finding out he could sing was like discovering Michael Crawford (whom I had only known from the corny, crazy 1981 movie CONDORMAN) was the Phantom. It blew my mind.

Mandy Patinkin is STELLAR as Archibald Craven. He plays it so well, as the melancholy man who is suffering from the crushing loss of losing the love of his life, and having a sickly young son whom he believes is going to die as well. This song, RACE YOU TO THE TOP OF THE MORNING, is just so sweet. This is one of the best versions ever (Anthony Warlow sings it too, you see, so I have the hardest time choosing which version is better).

I love the way he sings it, and depending on my mood, it makes me cry. He delivers it so well!

So, the Original Broadway Cast Album of The Secret Garden is probably my most favourite book-to-musical adaption I've heard (other than Phantom). I hope you give it a listen, and let me know what you think. :-)

Kay, that's all that's on my ninja mind for now. TTFN! (Let's see how many people know what THAT stands for. Mwahahaha).

God bless!

Le Cat

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2. The Book-Jumper Summer Reading Series and a Secret Garden Booklist Giveaway

Welcome back!

The Book-Jumper Summer Reading Series

As part of our Book-Jumper Summer Reading Series and Secret Garden week here at Jump into a Book we are giving away a Frances Hodgson Burnett Book Collection. The author of the Secret Garden penned over 40 books and we’re giving away some of her 4 most known and well loved classics plus a copy of our own A Year in the Secret Garden. It holds 12 months of wonderful activities, recipes,crafts, games,character and historical background information.

A Secret Garden Booklist Giveaway

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

A beautiful and timeless story about friendship, secrets, and the power of the human spirit, The Secret Garden tells the story of orphaned Mary Lennox, who is sent to live in her uncle’s house on the Yorkshire moors. With the tragic death of her uncle’s wife ten years earlier the house is an unhappy one. Miserable and lonely, Mary starts to explore the house’s gardens and soon discovers a key to the secret garden her uncle had sealed off. There she discovers a secret so important, so enchanting, that it will change her life forever.

A Little Princess

A Little princess

Alone in a new country, wealthy Sara Crewe tries to settle in and make friends at boarding school. But when she learns that she’ll never see her beloved father gain, her life is turned upside down. Transformed from princess to pauper, she must swap dancing lessons and luxury for hard work and a room in the attic. Will she find that kindness and generosity are all the riches she truly needs?

A little background information from Frances Hodgson Burnett herself:


I do not know whether  people realize how much more than is ever written there really is in a story—how many parts of it are never told—how much more really happened than there is in the book one holds in one’s hand and pours over.

Stories are something like letters. When a letter is written, how often one remembers things omitted and says, “Ah, why did I not tell them that?” In writing a book one relates all that one remembers at the time, and if one told all that really happened perhaps the book would never end. Between the lines of every story there is another story, and that is one that is never heard and can only be guessed at by the people who are good at guessing. The person who writes the story may never know all of it, but sometimes he does and wishes he had the chance to begin again.

When I wrote the story of “Sara Crewe” I guessed that a great deal more had happened at Miss Minchin’s than I had time to find out just then. I knew, of course, that there must have been chapters full of things going on all the time; and when I began to make a play out of the book and called it “A Little Princess,” I discovered three acts full of things. What interested me most was that I found that there had been girls at the school whose names I had not even known before. There was a little girl whose name was Lottie, who was an amusing little person; there was a hungry scullery-maid who was Sara’s adoring friend; Ermengarde was much more entertaining than she had seemed at first; things happened in the garret which had never been hinted at in the book; and a certain gentleman whose name was Melchisedec was an intimate friend of Sara’s who should never have been left out of the story if he had only walked into it in time. He and Becky and Lottie lived at Miss Minchin’s, and I cannot understand why they did not mention themselves to me at first. They were as real as Sara, and it was careless of them not to come out of the story shadowland and say, “Here I am—tell about me.” But they did not—which was their fault and not mine. People who live in the story one is writing ought to come forward at the beginning and tap the writing person on the shoulder and say, “Hallo, what about me?” If they don’t, no one can be blamed but themselves and their slouching, idle ways.

After the play of “A Little Princess” was produced in New York, and so many children went to see it and liked Becky and Lottie and Melchisedec, my publishers asked[vii] me if I could not write Sara’s story over again and put into it all the things and people who had been left out before, and so I have done it; and when I began I found there were actually pages and pages of things which had happened that had never been put even into the play, so in this new “Little Princess” I have put all I have been able to discover.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Little Lord falterroy

“But only be good, dear, only be brave, only be kind and true always, and then you will never hurt any one, so long as you live, and you may help many, and the big world may be better because my little child was born. And that is best of all, Ceddie, — it is better than everything else, that the world should be a little better because a man has lived — even ever so little better, dearest.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s conviction that love conquers all is memorably embodied in this classic rags-to-riches tale of an American boy who is transported from the mean streets of nineteenth-century New York to the splendor of his titled grandfather’s English manor; A Year in the Secret Garden

A Year in the Secret Garden

A year in the Secret Garden

Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters have co-created A Year in the Secret Garden to introduce the beloved children’s classic, The Secret Garden to a new generation of families.


This guide uses over two hundred full color illustrations and photos to bring the magical story to life, with fascinating historical information, monthly gardening activities, easy-to-make recipes, and step-by-step crafts, designed to enchant readers of all ages. Each month your family will unlock the mysteries of a Secret Garden character, as well as have fun together creating the original crafts and activities based on the book.

Giveaway! One Lucky Winner will win ALL FOUR BOOKS!


ONE winner will receive a copy of each of the fours books.  Giveaway begins June 5th, 2015 and end June 21st.

  • Prizing & samples  courtesy of Authors of the above books
  • Giveaway open to US addresses only
  • ONE lucky winner will win one copy of each of the above books (A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Little Lord Falteroy and A Year in the Secret Garden).
  • Residents of USA only please.
  • Must be 18 years or older to enter
  • One entry per household.
  • Staff and family members of Audrey Press are not eligible.
  • Grand Prize winner has 48 hours to claim prize
  • Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on June 22nd


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Can’t wait? Enjoy more month-by-month activities based on the classic children’s tale, The Secret Garden! A Year in the Secret Garden is a delightful children’s book with over 120 pages, with 150 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together.  Grab your copy ASAP and “meet me in the garden!”

A Year in The Secret Garden


The post The Book-Jumper Summer Reading Series and a Secret Garden Booklist Giveaway appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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3. Secret Garden Wednesday: Celebrating Spring with Robin Cake

Every Wednesday you can drop by here and find new and special happenings in the Secret Garden. There will be crafts, great food, fun and laughter. So please be sure to come by and see us in our Secret Garden created just for you.

Happy Spring to You !!!! Today on Secret Garden Wednesday I’m giving a public service announcement to buy those Cadbury Eggs while they’re here. This weekend is Easter weekend and the stores are loaded with those delectable creamy eggs.

I’m not giving this egg advisory for eggs sake oh no, I have other motives in mind.

While creating A Year in the Secret Garden one of the activities we had the most fun with was our Robin Cakes. Robin Cakes are creamy cupcakes with a cadbury egg in the center, an egg which is whole and does not melt. It’s so magical !!! On top of the robin cake we spread a creamy vanilla frosting and then create the cutest little robin to go on top. These cakes are hit at any party.

A Year in the Secret Garden Robin Cakes


I buy those cute little cadbury eggs during Easter time and put them in my freezer so I can make Robin Cakes all spring and summer long. So take heed and go get yourself some Cadbury Eggs, the small ones so you can have this delectable and adorable treat all Spring and Summer long.

secret garden wednesday

Have you missed the last few Secret Garden Wednesdays? These are too much fun not to read!

Want to enjoy more month-by-month activities based on the classic children’s tale, The Secret Garden? A Year in the Secret Garden is over 120 pages, with 150 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. A Year In the Secret Garden is our opportunity to introduce new generations of families to the magic of this classic tale in a modern and innovative way that creates special learning and play times outside in nature. This book encourages families to step away from technology and into the kitchen, garden, reading nook and craft room. Learn more, or grab your copy HERE.

A Year in the Secret garden

The post Secret Garden Wednesday: Celebrating Spring with Robin Cake appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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4. Secret Garden Wednesday: What To Do When Bees Get Thirsty ?

Hello and welcome to our Secret Garden! Every Wednesday you can drop by here and find new and special happenings in the Secret Garden. There will be crafts, great food, fun and laughter. So please be sure to come by and see us in our Secret Garden created just for you.

Happy Spring to You! Today on Secret Garden Wednesday we’re going to dive into the world of Bees. I know Spring is finally here because I’ve just spotted one of our pollinating friends the bumble bee over the weekend. As the temperatures rise the buzz in the air is loud. Day by day more and more plants and flowers are blooming. This is all thanks to pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, bats, wasps and so on. Without them we would simply die.

Side Note about Bees:

Bees play a key role in the productivity of agriculture and the beauty of our world and are responsible for the pollination of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and flowers. But our cherished bees are facing peril in the form of the disruption of natural habitats. This disruption is in the form of lack of “bee flowers” due to the widespread overuse of pesticides, and numerous bee diseases and parasites have pushed bees to the tipping point. But Jump Into a Book readers can do their part by planting “bee-friendly flowers” and not treating those same flowers with pesticides (insecticides, fungicides or herbicides). That simple act can help to keep bees healthy and on their own six feet.

Did You Know…

  • To get one pound of honey, that’s 16 oz requires 1,152 bees traveling 112,000 miles, visiting 4.5 Million flowers ?

With all of this traveling and the heat of summer, bees can get really thirsty. For a bee to drink water they need a surface to land on. To ensure that the bees are not only well fed but well watered too, let’s create a watering hole for them.

A Bee Watering Hole

Bee Watering Hole 1


  • Flower pot saucer
  • Rocks which you’ve collected or purchased at a craft store
  • Water


Bee Watering Hole 2

  1. Arrange the rocks in the flower pot saucer.
  2. Add water until water covers the bottom half of the rocks.
  3. Place outside near flowers

Inside A Year in the Secret Garden we explore the world of bees as we make a bee house/hive to attract bees into your garden. Though our garden might be a secret we always need bees and other pollinators inside to help our gardens grow.

Bee Watering Hole 3

Have you missed the last few Secret Garden Wednesdays? These are too much fun not to read!

Want to enjoy more month-by-month activities based on the classic children’s tale, The Secret Garden? A Year in the Secret Garden is over 120 pages, with 150 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. A Year In the Secret Garden is our opportunity to introduce new generations of families to the magic of this classic tale in a modern and innovative way that creates special learning and play times outside in nature. This book encourages families to step away from technology and into the kitchen, garden, reading nook and craft room. Learn more, or grab your copy HERE.

A Year in the Secret garden

The post Secret Garden Wednesday: What To Do When Bees Get Thirsty ? appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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5. Secret Garden Wednesday: Wildflowers

secret garden wednesday

Hello and welcome to our Secret Garden! Every Wednesday you can drop by here and find new and special happenings in the Secret Garden. There will be crafts, great food, fun and laughter. So please be sure to come by and see us in our Secret Garden created just for you.

We took a little adventure a couple of days ago and discovered a Secret Garden right in the middle of the forest. We were hiking in the Smoky Mountains, everyone around here knows that the wildflowers bloom over a few weeks and many of us get out to see the forest and mountain sides bloom out in color.

We took a side path and walked ourselves into an ancient moss covered forest. Surrounded completely by mountains we walked deep into the enclosed valley to discover the most enchanted vision I’ve ever seen in nature.

wildflowers 5

The forest floor was completely covered in blooming phlox, may apples and another little tiny white flower I don’t know the name of. Moss one inch thick covered fallen trees and branches as well as the trunks of living trees.

wildflowers 2

We were all alone here in this ancient wood. The only sounds were that of a water fall off in the distance, the cacophony of birds and the buzzing of bees.

wildflowers 4

One of the most important things missing from these photos is the smell. I’ve never smelled anything as this blooming forest. It made us heady with delight. We spent over an hour in this forest soaking it all in. Soon other wildflower enthusiasts joined us and it was nice to meet people who shared in this moment of Secret Garden bliss.

wildflowers 3

I learned a big lesson on this hike, that a Secret Garden doesn’t have to be behind a wall locked away with a key but can be found in our daily wanderings.

This week I challenge you to find a secret garden near you. It might be behind a wall, it might be under a big tree, it might be in the forest near your home, or behind a log that’s drifted in from the ocean. Wherever it is, go and find it! Cherish those hidden moments in nature’s Secret Gardens!

wildflower 1

Have you missed the last few Secret Garden Wednesdays? These are too much fun not to read!

Want to enjoy more month-by-month activities based on the classic children’s tale, The Secret Garden? A Year in the Secret Garden is over 120 pages, with 150 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. A Year In the Secret Garden is our opportunity to introduce new generations of families to the magic of this classic tale in a modern and innovative way that creates special learning and play times outside in nature. This book encourages families to step away from technology and into the kitchen, garden, reading nook and craft room. Learn more, or grab your copy HERE.

A Year in the Secret garden

The post Secret Garden Wednesday: Wildflowers appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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6. Secret Garden Wednesday: Rosapalooza


This week on Secret Garden Wednesday, we’re celebrating everything roses. When I think of the Secret Garden I think of roses and their wonderful beauty. Inside the Secret Garden there are roses growing everywhere and are happily attended to by Mary, Collin, and Dickon.

I grew up in Portland, Oregon and every year to this day in the merry month of June we have the Portland Rose Festival. It’s a solid two weeks of rose related fun and activities including a huge parade.


Rose Facts:

  • There are over 100 species of the rose.
  • We usually call the sharp spikes on the stem of a rose-bush “thorns”. But these are in fact technically prickles.
  • The flowers of most species of rose have five petals except for the species ‘Rosa sericea’ which has only four.
  • The name “Rose” is often used as a girl’s name in English-speaking countries.
  • For hundreds of years the rose has been widely recognized as a symbol of love, sympathy or sorrow.
  • The rose is most commonly used as an ornamental plant grown in the garden for its beautiful flowers.
  • The rose can be used in perfumes. The nice scent of the rose comes from microscopic perfume glands on the petals. Sometimes rose petals are also dried and packed for commercial use as decoration or for scent.
  • Because they’re low-maintenance and nice to look at, rose shrubs (classified as a shrub even though some don’t look like shrubs for example the climbing rose) are used as landscape plants for hedging (the thorns can discourage intruders) or planted on hillsides as a slope stabilizing method to stop soil erosion.
  • The fruit of a rose is called a rose hip. The berry-like hip are usually red in color but some can be dark purple or black.
  • Rose hips of some species are extremely rich in vitamin C, because of this the hip is sometimes made into jam, jelly, or brewed for tea. The hip also has minor medicinal uses, used in food supplements and can be pressed or filtered to make rose hip syrup. Hip seed oil is also used in skin products and makeup products.
  • Historically the rose was of great importance to the Romans and Egyptians. Romans would use them as room decorations, or wear them on string around their neck and anything which was said “under the rose” was deemed to be a secret. The famous Cleopatra of Egypt was believed to have covered the floor of her palace room with roses before Mark Antony visited her.
  • The rose can come in all colors although a “black rose” is not actually black it is usually a dark red. Each color has a different meaning or symbolizes something different for example red means love, orange – desire, yellow – joy etc.
  • Traditionally England is signified by the rose, it is the country’s national flower. The rose came to prominence there during the ‘Wars of the Roses’, 1455 to 1485 when the house of Lancaster was represented by the red rose and fought against the house of York which was represented by the white rose.
  • In 1986 the rose also became the floral emblem of the United States. It is the official flower of four states including the state of New York, Iowa, North Dakota and Georgia.

What other rose fun can we get into?

Rosapalooza Activities

Crepe paper Roses . This is one of illustrator and Friend Marilyn Scott-Waters favorite things to do is to make crepe paper roses. If you make some, be sure and post your photos on the Jump into a Book Facebook page.

Crepe Paper Rose craft

Jeweled Rose Crystals

This is such a fun and fascinating craft and incredibly fun science project.


 Rainbow Rose This is an incredible experiment to do whereby you can create a rainbow-colored rose. No genetic engineering involved only some food coloring and a little ingenuity. Super fun !!!

Beautiful Rainbow Roses

Have you missed the last few Secret Garden Wednesdays? These are too much fun not to read!

Want to enjoy more month-by-month activities based on the classic children’s tale, The Secret Garden? A Year in the Secret Garden is over 120 pages, with 150 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. A Year In the Secret Garden is our opportunity to introduce new generations of families to the magic of this classic tale in a modern and innovative way that creates special learning and play times outside in nature. This book encourages families to step away from technology and into the kitchen, garden, reading nook and craft room. Learn more, or grab your copy HERE.

A Year in the Secret garden

The post Secret Garden Wednesday: Rosapalooza appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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7. the secret garden (part one): another peek inside

"Then she slipped through it, and shut it behind her, and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder, and delight. She was standing inside the secret garden."  ~ Frances Hodgson Burnett

 Illustration by Russell Barnett.

Whenever I am asked to name my all-time favorite children's book, I always say, The Secret Garden.

It's not like I've read it more than three or four times in my entire life, or that I can quote key passages from it at the drop of a hat. And as soon as I mention it, a bevy of other beloved favorites come to mind -- Little Women, Little House books, Ramona Quimby, Anne of Green GablesA Little Princess. I love them all -- but somehow, The Secret Garden has the tightest grip on my child's heart.

        Original 1911 edition with illos by Troy Howell.

When I first read it, at the age of nine or ten, I knew nothing of the Yorkshire moors, gorse, heather, or the myriad flowers mentioned in the book except for roses. Instead of crocuses, snowdrops, lilacs, peonies and forget-me-nots, I had grown up with anthuriums, plumeria, bird-of-paradise. I had never seen a robin, fox, or crow. But I knew loneliness and had a big case of "it's not fair," and often wished I had the power to boss grown-ups around and make them listen to me. Oh, to have an Ayah or servants at my beck and call!
Mostly, though, I was captivated by the possibility of having a secret sanctuary which totally excluded all the disappointments, hurts, and concerns of the outside adult world. I loved knowing that children my age were capable of transforming a place of willfull neglect into a thriving Eden, and that even if you were once a brat, finding the right friend and learning how to use a trowel could cure you of it. Hope for the downtrodden! Open the book, pass through the gate, cultivate your imagination as you try to survive childhood.

Some of Troy Howell's illustrations.

I suppose The Secret Garden hit me just when I needed it most. I did not grow up orphaned, rich, sickly or neglected. But like Mary Lennox, who asked for a "bit of earth," I longed to claim something for my very own, and reading this story allowed me to do that. I claimed whatever emotions rang true, whatever truths made sense, whatever details and descriptions a nine-year-old was capable of holding on to. I had never eaten oatcakes or currant buns, but I knew the comfort a fresh glass of milk and a homebaked treat could provide. I could pretend a wild robin trusted and liked me unconditionally, and that I could depend on Martha or Susan Sowerby when my own mother was not around.

European Robin photo by Steve Greaves.
Then there's the ingenuous belief that a small nobody girl like me, all on her own, could turn the corner and discover a wondrous, astonishing, albeit forbidden place! Why not? It was after reading this book, I think, that this startling thought took hold: you are capable of creating your own reality (in fact you must) -- plant the seeds early, feed, nourish, protect and tend to the ideas that matter most. There is a secret garden in every person's soul

North York Moors in low light by Tall Guy.

North Yorkshire Moors pasture land by ukawar.

Heather moorland, North York Moors National Park.

Recently, I read the book again, and it was, in many ways, like reading it for the first time. Because now I have the advantage of knowing what Yorkshire really looks like. I've wandered a little on those moors with the wind "wuthering" around me, heard the famous Yorkshire accent or Tyke, tasted some of that hearty cuisine. I've even been south to Kent, site of Great Maytham Hall, where Burnett lived for a time with her own rose garden and friendly robin, which is to say, now the story is sweeter, richer, deeper, more vivid and far-reaching. I wonder, sometimes, if my reading it as a child lay the groundwork for my decision later on to leave the insulated haven of O'ahu for a larger, distant garden two oceans and a continent away. 

Great Maytham Hall, Rolvenden, Kent, is now divided into apartments and
used as a retirement home (photo by Stephen Nunney).

The enclosed garden beyond the wall on the right was FHB's inspiration for
The Secret Garden (
photo by Stephen Nunney).

One thing I do know about England -- "this sceptred isle, this other Eden" -- is that gardens are taken very seriously, from the immaculate grand scale formal gardens of manor houses and parks, to the private gardens proudly and lovingly tended by the average citizen. Even small, non-descript rowhouses will have a patch of green out back, a natural calling card. If you're British, you like your lager at room temperature and your gardens tidy, and Frances Hodgson Burnett exploited the garden metaphor to its fullest. It was a place of destruction and tragedy, where Colin's mother had her fatal accident, but more importantly, a place of restoration, redemption, and healing -- for Mary, Colin, and Mr. Craven.

Cottage garden, North Yorkshire Moors, by Acomb Dave.

Hampton Court Palace (one of my fave formal gardens) by Sue@Naulaka.

One of the things I noted this time around was finding the Yorkshire dialect distracting at times; I don't remember if it hindered my reading of the story as a child, but I found myself stumbling over some of it. I also did not like Colin's pontificating and sermonizing near the end of the book. I found his scientific lecture about Magic over the top, an authorial intrusion designed to hammer home Christian Science/New Thought tenets.

The story itself beautifully illustrates the curative powers of nature, the importance of love, companionship, and friendship, and the power of positive outlook on health and well being without these added sermons. Dickon singing the Doxology also made me cringe. Just a little too preachy for me, though I doubt I found any of this objectionable as a child reader. Then, I read for story and happy endings and the high enchantment factor. The world of that garden was foreign, idyllic, pure fantasy. Who could have dreamed I would one day travel to that eternally green land a spinster schoolteacher, and emerge a blushing bride? ☺ There's magic there, indeed.


The references to India, i.e., partly blaming a location for Mary's ill health and sour temperament also gave me pause: "Her hair was yellow, and her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had always been ill in one way or another." India is presented in an unfavorable light throughout the book -- a place of ugliness and disease with nothing to recommend it, whereas England is an ideal place where, with fresh air, exercise, and companionship, people can thrive (even Mr. Craven's travel to foreign lands is a sign of sickness). My mind swirls with the evils of British colonialism; I'm once again reminded of Burnett's Christian Science agenda, how times have changed with our current aversion to overt moralizing, and how "showing, not telling" is today's barometer for good fiction. Still, regardless of age, we all read for moments like these:

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one's head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one's heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun -- which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in someone's eyes.

The Secret Garden was first serialized in The American Magazine (1910), before book publication in 1911. Surprisingly, it was not Burnett's most lauded work during her lifetime. She led an interesting transatlantic sort of life with her fair share of sorrow and adversity: losing her father at age 4, suffering from depression, surviving two failed marriages and the death of her older son, enduring harsh public scrutiny and condemnation of her lifestyle.


The book's been in the public domain in the U.S. since 1987, and is available in a skerjillion different editions, some with illos by people like Tasha Tudor and Charles Robinson. A recent edition published by Candlewick in 2007 contains a treasure trove of Inga Moore's gorgeous ink and watercolor illustrations. I love how the highly detailed pictures progress from soft and subtle to brighter and more vibrant as the children and garden flourish. In many ways, it's the secret garden as I have long imagined it. If you love this story, you must see it. 


Do kids these days still read The Secret Garden? Lois Lowry doubts they do, but would love it if they did, because:

I would like next century's children to know the languor of loneliness, the anguish of neglect, and the sweet frisson that secrecy gives. And if only, through the leisurely pace of pages, they could learn of the patience, tenderness, and nurture that once brought flowers -- and young humans -- into bloom. (Horn Book Magazine, 2000)


Just for fun, take this Secret Garden Quiz to see how much you remember.

And, don't miss Lois Lowry's Introduction in the Bantam Classic edition -- insightful and enlightening (click on the See Inside feature to read it in its entirety).

Private garden in the Cotswolds by UGArdener.

Stay tuned for Part Two: Yorkshire Culinary Delights from The Secret Garden!


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8. the secret garden (part two): yorkshire culinary delights

"After a few days spent almost entirely out of doors Mary wakened one morning knowing what it was to be hungry, and when she sat down to her breakfast she did not glance disdainfully at her porridge and push it away, but took up her spoon and began to eat it and went on eating it until her bowl was empty."

The Secret Garden is first and foremost about the wonder and magic of making things come alive -- the blossoming of an abandoned garden and two lonely, neglected children. But food is also magical and plays a crucial role in the story. As the flowers and plants grow, so do Mary and Colin's appetites -- and who can blame them, with pails of fresh milk, homemade cottage bread slathered with raspberry jam and marmalade, buttered crumpets, currant buns, hot oatcakes, muffins, dough-cakes, and the all-important bowl of warm porridge, sweetened with treacle or brown sugar.

Oatmeal porridge was eaten by both rich and poor in Yorkshire during Victorian times.
(photo by flirty kitty)

photo by daveknapik.

photo by girlygoogal.

My recent rereading of the novel yielded new insights about the self sufficiency of manor houses like Misselthwaite during Victorian times, and Burnett's advocacy of homegrown and lovingly shared food as a key component in establishing physical and emotional health. We see Mary change from a sickly, sallow, ill-tempered waif, to a happy, engaged, more caring individual. Colin undergoes a dramatic transformation from a pessimistic, overprotected, bedridden tyrant to a budding evangelical Christian scientist. Purposeful activity centered around nature, lots of fresh air, exercise and companionship certainly contributed to healing, but so did unlimited access to a bounty of locally sourced nourishment.

You may remember that the first time Mary wandered outside, she met Ben Weatherstaff, who was working in one of the kitchen gardens. A place like Misselthwaite probably had at least three kitchen gardens (averaging between 1-1/2 to 5 acres each) and an orchard, which supported a large variety of fruit, vegetables, and herbs. The high brick garden walls kept out thieves and large animals, and helped keep the heat in. Some of the vines and fruit trees were trained to grow on the walls for maximum exposure to light and warmth, thereby increasing their yield.

Victorian cloches at West Dean Kitchen Garden protect against cold and pests.
(photo by ANDREWPF)

Felbrigg Kitchen Garden photo by ANDREWPF.

Photo of walled kitchen garden at Knightshayes Court by rmtw

Rhubarb garden at Knightshayes Court (Tiverton, Devon, England).
(photo by rmtw.)

Mrs. Loomis, the cook, consulted with the head gardener, Mr. Roach, about what to plant, and made sure the larder and pantries were stocked with all the ingredients necessary to feed the family, staff, and guests. She also supervised the cooking of breakfast, luncheon, tea, and dinner. It is likely the manor raised its own dairy cows and chickens, or ordered milk and poultry from local farmers.

Beaulieu Palace kitchen photo by Antony Smith.
By contrast, Dickon's family, who lived in a small four-room cottage a few miles away, struggled with getting enough food on a daily basis. Susan Sowerby had fourteen mouths to feed; their mainstays included porridge, breads, the occasional bacon, and whatever Dickon grew in their small garden -- practical, sturdy vegetables like potatoes, turnips, carrots, cabbages and herbs that could stand up to the harsh Yorkshire weather and be easily stored for the winter. Not a crumb was ever wasted or taken for granted, so that's why Martha was so shocked when Mary refused to eat her porridge her first morning at Misselthwaite (do you remember what she did end up eating?). Since they couldn't afford the brick walls of manor houses, cottagers like the Sowerbys constructed stone walls to buffer the wind and guard against animals.

But whether the children feasted on Mrs. Loomis' meals or Susan's currant buns, they thrived -- grew fatter, stronger, and more energetic, because the food was always made from fresh ingredients and shared among friends. The most delightful meals took place in the secret garden itself, on occasions when Dickon brought along a pail of fresh milk, and whatever baked goods his mother could spare that day. That she was willing to share what little food they had speaks highly of the generosity of country folk, and is in keeping with Burnett's idealized vision of pastoral bliss in the face of poverty. In this story, those who had the least seemed happiest, while Colin and Mary, who came from privileged backgrounds, suffered from neglect. Though Mary probably could have had anything she asked for at the manor, I'm guessing she relished those warm currant buns wrapped in a clean blue and white napkin. 

Currant buns by Evanswood.

My memories of Yorkshire food are unequivocally positive. While in London, we mostly ate at ethnic restaurants -- Japanese, Indian, Korean, and Italian, because English food, other than breakfast, was largely disappointing. But when we traveled up north, the food vastly improved. Was it the bracing country air, the farm fresh produce, the friendly people, or the romance of being in the culturally rich shire associated with the Brontës, James Herriot, Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, children's author Arthur Ransome, or poets W.H. Auden and Ted Hughes?  

Haworth moors, Brontë Country (photo by Abigail 709b).

Yorkshire fare is simple, hearty, and rich with flavor -- comfort food designed to keep the body and spirits braced against a damp, harsh climate and adequately fueled for a hard day's labor. You've probably heard of Yorkshire Pudding, which is like a popover cooked in meat drippings. Though many restaurants now bake individual puddings, served along with the Sunday roast and vegetables, traditionally Yorkshire Pudding is baked in large rectangular pans, sliced into squares, and then served with gravy before the rest of the meal.

photo by Robbie Jim.

What else is Yorkshire known for? Cured ham, Wensleydale cheese, and a raft of baked goods (one needs extra energy roaming those heathland moors for the likes of Heathcliff).

There's parkin, an oatmeal ginger cake sweetened with treacle,
photo by Spider.Dog.

fat rascals, small cakes similar to scones containing dried fruit,

photo by skyoasis.

stottie cakes, a kind of flat bread used for sandwiches,

Wilfra apple cake, which is made with Wensleydale cheese,

singin'hinny, a lard-based pastry that whistles when it bakes, due to its high fat content,

photo by Lien (nottie van Lien)

and Yorkshire curd tarts (made with rosewater).

Yorkshire Curd Tart at Betty's Tea Shop (York, England)
(photo by elb_the_prof)

Then there's the famous Yorkshire oatcake, also known as havercake. Along with bread and currant buns, oatcakes were a staple in the Sowerby home, cooked in large quantities on a bakestone suspended by a hook over the fire. Some were enjoyed hot and buttered, while others were left to cool and crisp, propped up on wooden blocks or hung near the ceiling of the cottage so they could be eaten later. At one point in the story, Dickon suggests that Mary visit the cottage to have some "o' Mother's hot oat cake, an' butter an' a glass o' milk." Mmmmm!

Of course I had to try making some of my own. I love pancakes in general, but never made any using oat flour. The recipe from Inside the Secret Garden calls for a blend of whole wheat flour and finely ground oatmeal and yeast! It was easy to make, though you need to plan ahead, since the batter has to rise for about an hour before cooking on a griddle. Of course, the bears ate them with marmalade, raspberry jam, and maple syrup. Oatcakes can also be rolled and stuffed with savory fillings like cubed ham or cheese. I do like this recipe and will definitely make it again.

Oatcake batter after one hour's rising.

(makes 6 oatcakes)

Cornelius tries one out with butter and marmalade.

1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 oz. fresh yeast (or 2-1/4 tsp. active dry yeast and 1 tsp. sugar)
1-1/2 cups finely ground oatmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. shortening (for greasing the griddle)

1. In a saucepan, mix the milk and water. Set the saucepan over low heat until the mixture is lukewarm to the touch, or 110 ° F if you are using a cooking thermometer.

2. Pour the warmed mixture into a large mixing bowl. Crumble the fresh yeast into the warm milk and water and stir it until it is dissolved. If you are using dry yeast, stir it and the sugar into the warm liquid and set it aside in a warm place for about five minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble, before proceeding.

3. Stir the oatmeal, flour, and salt into the milk and yeast mixture. Add more water, if necessary, to make a batter. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and set it aside in a warm place for about an hour.

4. Lightly grease a griddle or large skillet and place it over medium heat.

5. Stir the oatcake batter and spoon about 2/3 cup of it into the hot pan, spreading it slightly to make a thin oval cake in the middle of the pan.

6. Cook the oatcake for just a few minutes, until it is set but not browned on the bottom. Turn the oatcake and cook it briefly on the other side.

7. Serve the oatcake hot, letting each person break off a piece for herself. Spread the oatcake with butter and jam or marmalade, if desired. Dry any leftover loaves on a wire rack, store them covered, and eat them later, plain or with cheese.

Hmmm, would raspberry jam be better?

I think fresh raspberries and whipped cream is probably best!

♥ Needless to say, when I made this, there were no "leftover" oatcakes to dry. I found these light, fluffy and flavorful -- better than pancakes made with all purpose flour. And it was exciting watching the batter bubble up! I can see how much Mary would be comforted and satisfied eating these in the Sowerby cottage, cheered on by a tribe of boisterous children. I am now anxious to make some parkin and fat rascals, since I've already tasted Yorkshire Pudding and curd tarts.

Interesting that The Secret Garden was written during a time when many poverty-stricken children, who were forced to move to industrial towns for work, lacked proper nourishment, sometimes even fresh drinking water.  Burnett created an ideal world where children, rich and poor, had access to fresh food. This story celebrates the wonders that can happen when it is generously and joyously shared.   



Inside the Secret Garden: A Treasury of Crafts, Recipes, and Activities, by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson (HarperCollins, 2001). In addition to great recipes for breakfasts and teas, it contains chapters devoted to garden crafts and background about Frances Hodgson Burnett, Misselthwaite Manor, and the language used in the novel.

The Secret Garden Cookbook by Amy Cotler, illustrations by Prudence See (HarperCollins, 1999). Recipes for Yorkshire Breakfasts, A Manor Lunch, An English Tea, The Kitchen Garden, Dickon's Cottage Food, A Taste of India, and Garden Picnics. Also contains juicy tidbits about Victorian cuisine and excerpts from the novel.

Recipes for Yorkshire Pudding, Wilfra Apple Cake, Fat Rascals, and Ginger Parkin can be found online here. Recipe for Singin'hinny is here.

Thanks for reading, and have a Yorkshire Secret Garden kind of day!

The Secret Garden (Part One): Another Peek Inside can be found here.

*Victorian Kitchen illustration used with permission, copyright © 2009 John Shipperbottom. All rights reserved.  


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9. Poetry Friday

I missed the snow drops this year, but the daffodils are coming up. The ones next door bloomed yesterday. It's warm enough the my plan today was to spend all day reading in my hammock, until I remembered that no leaves = no shade = blinding glare off a white page = impossible to read. Leaves are starting to appear on my butterfly bush and the grass is turning greener, which puts me in the mood to listen to my favorite musical, based on one of my favorite books, The Secret Garden.

Winter's On The Wing

Winter's on the wing,
Here's a fine spring morn'
Comin' clear through the night,
Come the day I say.
Winter's taken flight
Sweepin' dark cold air
Out to sea, Spring is born,
Comes the day say I,

And you'll be here to see it.
Stand and breathe it all the day.
Stoop, and feel it. Stop and hear it.
Spring, I say.

And now the sun is climbin' high,
Rising fast on fire,
Glaring down through the gloom,
Gone the gray, I say.
The sun it spells the doom
Of the winter's reign,
Ice and chill must retire
Comes the May say I,

And you'll be here to see it.
Stand and breathe it all the day.
Stoop, and feel it. Stop and hear it.
Spring, I say.

I say, be gone, ye howling gales,
Be off, ye frosty morns!
All ye solid streams begin to thaw.
Melt, ye waterfalls,
Part ye frozen winter walls.
See, see now it's starting.

And now the mist is liftin' high,
Leavin' bright blue air
Rollin' clean 'cross the moor
Comes the day I say.
The storm'll soon be by
Leaving clear blue sky,
Soon the sun will shine,
Comes the day, say I.

And you'll be here to see it.
Stand and breathe it all the day.
Stoop and feel it. Stop and hear it.
Spring, I say.

And a refrain from another, Wick, that I've been singing all week:

Come a mild day, come a warm rain,
Come a snowdrop, a-comin' up!
Come a lily, come a lilac!
Come to call, calling all the rest to come!
Calling all the rest to come!
Calling all the world to come!

Round Up is Over At Some Novel Ideas!

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10. “If it were a quite alive garden, how wonderful it would be…”

I have to clarify something. In the Two Gardeners ramble I said Katharine White’s Onward and Upward in the Garden was the first horticultural tome I ever fell in love with, but that isn’t exactly true. At first I wrote “the first gardening book I ever fell in love with,” and immediately I knew that wasn’t right: that honor goes to (for me, as for so many others) The Secret Garden—a book I have read at least twenty times in my life, and I think that is a conservative estimate. It might be nearer thirty.

So I changed “gardening book” to “horticultural tome,” not wanting, that day, to digress into the many pages of reasons why The Secret Garden is a book that shaped me, and either it was what taught me to thrill at the first sign of a green shoot poking out of cool spring soil, or else it gave me words to articulate that thrill I always felt. Either way, it was a book that explained me to me, and I would not be me without it. I was not temperamentally sour like Mary, nor sickly like Colin, nor wise like Dickon. I was probably more like Martha, the maid, than anyone else in that book, though I longed to comprehend the languages of foxes and larks, like Dickon, and to be daring and stubborn like Mary, and I admired the way Colin’s mind would fix on something and turn it over and over until he made sense of it. I understood Mary’s rush of emotion and thumping heart at the signs of spring creeping like a green mist over the dead, gray garden. I too yearned for my own bit of earth. (And got it: my mother gave us each a section of her flower bed to be our own. I grew snapdragons and moss roses, and they are still among my favorites and I cannot be without them.) Like Mary, I wanted to know the names of things and how to keep them “quite alive—quite,” and to converse with saucy robins and to smell the wind over the heather.

Sometimes I think there is no finer sentence in all of literature than: “She was standing inside the secret garden.”

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11. An introduction to classic children’s literature

For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics have brought readers closer to the world’s finest writers and their works. Making available popular favourites as well as lesser-known books, the series has grown to 700 titles – from the 4,000 year-old myths of Mesopotamia to the twentieth-century’s greatest novels. Yet many of our readers first acquainted themselves with an Oxford World’s Classic as a child. In the below videos, Peter Hunt, who was responsible for setting up the first course in children’s literature in the UK, reintroduces us to The Secret Garden, The Wind in the Willows, and Treasure Island.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Click here to view the embedded video.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Click here to view the embedded video.

Peter Hunt was the first specialist in Children’s Literature to be appointed full Professor of English in a British university. Peter Hunt has written or edited eighteen books on the subject of children’s literature, including An Introduction to Children’s Literature (OUP, 1994) and has edited Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island and The Secret Garden for Oxford World’s Classics.

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12. Stuff I read today (and last night)


Stayed awake last night long enough to read the first chapter of the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, a book I’ve had on my TBR list (and my Kindle) ever since Ta-Nehisi Coates blogged his way through it in an excellent and moving series of posts in 2010. This passage about Grant’s mother made me laugh out loud:

“She still lives in Clermont County at this writing, October 5th, 1884, and is over ninety ears of age. Until her memory failed her, a few years ago, she thought the country ruined beyond recovery when the Democratic party lost control in 1860.”

Until her memory failed her a few years ago. Meaning up through and including her son’s two terms as President. Gee, Ma, thanks for the support.


This morning, during Rilla’s piano lesson, I returned to and finished Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s first lecture from On the Art of Writing, which I began on the heels of last month’s Helene Hanff kick. This is the book Helene took eleven years to rabbit-trail her way through, stopping to read up on the many books and thinkers “Q” references, and after Wikipediaing my own way through this one lecture, I can see (a month later) why it took her over a decade. I’m also enthralled by the snapshot of a pregnant moment in time: there’s Q in 1912, recently appointed to the brand-new Professorship of English Literature at Cambridge—let that sink in for a moment; there wasn’t one before 1911—addressing his students to explain his purpose and point of view in the position. He begins with a somewhat lofty exploration (in company with Plato) of the question of “What to do with the poets?” and then lays out his aims and principles. He won’t go so far as to say you can teach literature; he approves of the wording of his job description, which specifies “to promote the study of Literature.”

But that the study of English Literature can be promoted in young minds by an elder one, that their zeal may be encouraged, their tastes directed, their vision cleared, quickened, enlarged—this, I take it, no man of experience will deny.

And then, in a move that fills me with gratitude, he spells out exactly where he stands as a reader and a critic:

For the first principle of all I put to you that in studying any work of genius we should begin by taking it absolutely; that is to say, with minds intent on discovering just what the author’s mind intended…

Authorial intent. Got it. It’s refreshingly uncomplicated (and maybe somewhat quixotic), that school of thought, especially for someone like me whose undergraduate experience in the late 80s was a muddle of competing theories, most of which I didn’t know were theories, nor in competition. There was the Freudian professor, but we were too green to know he was a Freudian; I only figured it out (and that it was a thing at all, an approach to literary analysis and not just a unit in Psych 101) after I got a work-study in the English department and was assigned the mind-numbing task of entering his copious footnotes into the MS-DOS file of his very, very, very lengthy Freudian interpretation of Ulysses. Suddenly I had context for his insistence that every single story written by every single student in his Creative Writing class contained hidden Oedipal longings, no matter how earnestly we proclaimed that no, that wasn’t what we’d meant at all. The context didn’t really help; he went on doing Freudian readings of our work no matter how much we protested—actually, the protests made him all the more gleeful—but at least I knew on what grounds to ignore him. I felt conned, actually, resenting that the course description had not been more forthright about professorial hobby-horses. I mean, if you took Linguistics at that college, you knew you were getting a fervently feminist take on the subject, and I really appreciated that transparency (and enjoyed the course). Only later did I begin to wonder what critical theory informed my other professors’ pedagogy. The more I learned about theory, the greater my retrospective indignation. If we’re looking through a particular lens, I’d like to know I’m what glasses I’m wearing. If I’m signing up for your cooking class, I’d like to know up front whether you’re a vegan or a molecular gastronomist.

And so I find Q’s transparency terribly endearing. And it’s fascinating, too, to see him poised there in 1912, at the advent of Modernism, just before all these new ideas about interpreting literature (and writing it) were to sweep across the field. This article by a Cambridge professor captures it quite poignantly:

“He was also acutely aware that he was teaching at a moment when the direction of Literature was taking a radical turn, the turn to modernism. He believed profoundly that the literature of the present day should be taught and that students should be taught (as I believe, too) how to read modern literature. Yet he knew that, temperamentally, his own love of literature and his own ear for language were steeped in the literature of the past, and that he had great difficulty in appreciating the TS Eliots and the Ezra Pounds who were beginning to steal his thunder…”

Two decades later, Q’s student, F. R. Leavis, was to usher in the New Criticism that focused on close readings of the text alone, rather than authorial intent and biographical background—which would, in turn, be swept past by Structuralism, and Post-Structuralism, and all sorts of other schools of literary theory about which I’m much fuzzier than I should be. I really don’t know where things stand at present. The lit profs whose blogs I read (and the ModPo crew I’m so fond of) seem to take the kind of historical, biographical approach that I myself most enjoy, looking closely at the cultural/historical context of a work of literature and the author’s life circumstances in addition to unpacking the text —and then I’d say, as well, there’s a lot of looking at various works through specific, clearly defined lenses. Of course it’s possible I read the blogs I do because they take an approach that appeals to me. For all I know, my old professor is out there happily blogging away about the Freudian underpinnings of Mad Men.


On an entirely different note, today is the day Rilla met Mary Lennox. She wasn’t ready, last year when I suggested reading the book. Today, after a sunny (in all respects) hour in the garden, the time felt right. It was. Very very happy sigh from this lifelong Secret Garden devotee. And—we saw our first wild lupines of the year on the roadside today! Which means, of course, it’s time for Miss Rumphius.

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13. Top Book Editors Pick their Favorite Children's Books of 2014

With so many wonderful books published in 2014, it's hard to know where to begin in making reading choices. One easy way to discover amazing stories is to take a look at Publishers Weekly round-up of top children's book editors 2014 picks (only books not published by their own company). In this article you'll discover the books the editors wish they'd snagged before another publisher got to them first, how they learned about the books, and why they love them. Their favorites also include some older classics.
The picks include:  The Bunker Diary; The Iridescence of Birds; Grasshopper Jungle; El Deafo; Blue Lily, Lily Blue; The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender; The Winner’s Curse; Half Bad; Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Brown Girl Dreaming; The Perks of Being a Wallflower; The Glassblower’s Children; Sideways Stories from Wayside School; Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children; The Storm Whale; The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making; Wild Rover No More; The Secret Garden; Egg & Spoon; and Grasshopper Jungle.

A few quotes from the piece:

David Levithan, Scholastic. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. "Grasshopper Jungle is a messy, repetitive, horny, ridiculous novel with a main character who will strain your sympathies about as far as they can go. And I love it for all of these qualities, and for the exuberance of its daring."

Nicholas During, New York Review Books. Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. "There’s something rather melancholy about the story in combination with Sendak’s illustrations, and, don’t ask why, I find it’s a bit of sadness that makes the best children’s books."

Brittany Pearlman, Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Steifvater. "There’s a line in the book where the main character, Blue, reflects about herself and her four male companions (the Raven Boys): “We were all a little bit in love with each other”; and that’s exactly how I feel about every one of the characters. The magical realism and fantasy make the story truly enchanting, but it’s always grounded in character so that you feel completely immersed."

T.S. Ferguson, Harlequin Teen. Half Bad by Sally Green. "Half Bad by Sally Green has obvious comparisons to the world of Harry Potter, but the story unfolds in such a uniquely compelling way that I couldn’t put it down. I loved the themes of racism, genocide, and terrorism as viewed through a fantasy lens."

Liz Herzog, Scholastic. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. "When I brought the book home and read it, I loved the way Riggs had so artfully built a rich and engaging world all from a collection of found photos. It made me think about where stories come from, and how pictures can be a powerful jumping-off point for the imagination."

Megan Barlog, HarperCollins Children’s Books. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. "This book takes the best elements of fairytale romps like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz and transforms them into a tale of daring adventure."

Be sure to visit Publishers Weekly for the complete article.

What were your favorite books of 2014 for children?

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