The Secret Garden on 81st Street: A Modern Graphic Retelling of The Secret Garden

Little, Brown. Oct. 2021. 256p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780316459655.
Gr 4-7–After the sudden death of her parents, Mary Lennox leaves her lonely life in Silicon Valley for a fresh start at her uncle Archie Craven’s apartment in New York City. Initially standoffish, Mary blossoms while exploring the city and forging friendships with neighbor Martha, friendly bodega owner Ben, and bodega cat Robin. After discovering the missing key to a rooftop garden, Mary seeks help from Dickon, Martha’s brother, to transform the neglected space. Keeping their work on the garden secret is paramount, especially after Mary uncovers the reason behind the mysterious third-floor noises: her previously unknown cousin Colin, who believes something is wrong with his heart and stays inside out of fear of a heart attack, though doctors have diagnosed him with anxiety. Restoring the rooftop garden to its former glory will require Mary and Colin to band together and dig into their grief. This graphic novel retelling of The Secret Garden hits the essential plot points of the original but offers more inclusive representation, with LGBTQ characters, people of color, and those dealing with mental health issues. Mary, Colin, and Uncle Archie all struggle to overcome loss. Colin’s anxiety and panic disorder are handled sensitively thanks to the presence of a therapist and informative character discussions. The subdued colors and cartoony illustrations will pull in young readers. A love letter to New York, the story depicts well-known locations like Central Park. Mary, Colin, and Uncle Archie are brown-skinned; Martha and Dickon are white.
VERDICT Readers will appreciate this ultimately hopeful story of loss and change. Hand especially to young readers seeking fictional works that deal with grief and anxiety.

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