HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Night Gardener
Author: Jonathan Auxier
Illustrator: Patrick Arrasmith
Publisher: Amulet Books, 2014
Related websites: http://www.TheScop.com (author), http://www.AmuletBooks.com (publisher)
Language level: I’m giving it a 2 (in addition to a common euphemism, the term “bloody hell” is found once)
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 10 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Auxier, Jonathan. The Night Gardener (published in 2014 by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams, 115 W. 18th St., New York City, NY 10011). It is sometime in the 1850s. Two red-headed, Irish children, fourteen year old Molly McConnachie and her ten year old lame brother Kip, from County Donegal, had left Ireland with their parents for a new life during the potato famine. However, something happened to wreck the ship, and Molly and Kip found themselves in an orphanage without their Da and Ma. Molly has been comforting Kip with her storytelling ability. They sneaked away and have come to Cedar Hollow, England, where Molly lands them jobs, she as a maid and Kip as a gardener, at the old Windsor estate in the “Sourwoods.” They meet the master of the house, Mr. Bertrand Windsor, his wife Constance, and their two children, Alistair and Penelope Eleanor or Penny.
However, things are not right. The children hear stories about an ancient curse and a mysterious spectre. The house looks as if it is haunted. There is an ugly tree growing right up beside it and actually right into it. The woods surrounding the place have no birds. The Windsors all appear to be sickly. Mr. Windsor seems to have financial problems. Strange men come around asking for money. And something very sinister and eerie is going on at night. Will Molly and Kip be all right? Or will something bad happen to them? And will they ever find their parents? The Night Gardener is said to be the “much-anticipated follow-up to Jonathan Auxier’s exceptional debut, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes,” which I have not read but is about a blind ten year old orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery and one fateful afternoon steals a box from a mysterious traveling haberdasher that contains three pairs of magical eyes. It apparently bears no direct relationship to The Night Gardener.
The book moves a bit slowly at first, but it does a good job of setting the stage and is very exciting at the end. As to language, one common euphemism (drat) occurs and the term “bloody hell” is found once. Some references to drinking wine and ale and smoking tobacco are found. And there are two or three rather violent deaths. Thus, it might not be appropriate for especially sensitive readers, but there is nothing that most parents would find majorly objectionable. The book is said to be “a Victorian ghost story” with shades of Ray Bradbury, Washington Irving, Frances Hodgson Burnett, J. M. Barrie, and even Henry James. Yet, it is more. It is also a cautionary moral fable about human greed, the dangers of lying, and the power of storytelling. Young people who enjoy spooky stories with a gothic-like setting, a creepy plot, a menacing atmosphere, and memorable characters will like this book.