December 10, 2017

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Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb | SLJ Audio Review

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redstarWEBB, Holly. Return to the Secret Garden. 4 CDs. 5:13 hrs. Dreamscape. Dec. 2016. $29.99 ISBN 9781520064765. digital download.

STAR-AU-Webb-ReturntotheSecretGardenGr 3-6 Emmie and the other orphans of the Craven Home for Orphaned Children are being evacuated from London to Misselthwaite Manor on the eve of World War II. The chaos of displacement mirrors Emmie’s loneliness and frustration. This powerful historical setting is the backdrop for Webb’s lovely sequel to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden. As Emmie becomes acclimated to her life on the Yorkshire moors, we watch her sense of curiosity overtake her resentment. Although presented as a sequel, this book stands on its own merit. As Emmie reads Mary Lennox’s diaries, readers are given enough background information to understand the parallels between the two novels. The secret garden quickly becomes a character, offering Emmie safety and room to grow. With beautiful imagery and evocative prose, Webb invites readers into the English countryside. Emmie’s friendships with Jack Craven and Mr. Sowerby, the gardener, are explored with sensitivity and authenticity. Webb expertly crafts the story lines, providing drama in just the right places. Maggie Ollerenshaw’s narration is engaging, with pacing that reflects the plot. VERDICT For fans of The Secret Garden, this is a must-read. For those not familiar with the earlier novel, this is a sweet and satisfying tale of friendship and growth.–Terri Perper, Olney Elementary School, MD

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2017 issue.

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