Book Review: Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb

January 11, 2017 Book review 7 ★★★½

Is there any book that you love as much as the books that you loved in your childhood?  For me I think not, those early books have nestled into my bookish heart and I can’t logically review them as I’m all wrapped up in feels for them.  But a sequel (hello Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb) to one of those books is fair game!

Book Review: Return to the Secret Garden by Holly WebbReturn To The Secret Garden by Holly Webb
Published by Scholastic Children's Books on October 1st 2015
Genres: Middle Grade, ReTelling
Pages: 240
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

Return to the magic of Burnett's classic tale with a brand-new character as she discovers a very secret garden.

It's 1939, and the occupants of the Craven Home for Orphaned Children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall, a fancy manor in the English countryside, to escape the Blitz. Emmie would hardly call the orphanage "home," but her heart breaks knowing that leaving Craven means leaving her beloved cat, Lucy. Away from everything she's ever known and trapped in imposing Misselthwaite, Emmie finds herself more miserable than ever.

But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house-a boy who cries in the night, a diary written by a girl named Mary, and a garden. A very secret garden…

AUDIOBOOK middle grade Refreshing

My Thoughts on Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb:

I adore The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, so when I saw this follow-up book in my library I grabbed it.  And my verdict is; if you already love the original (and by far the best), then you should enjoy this book. In some ways it feels like a weak imitation, as it also features

  • a sulky, lonely orphan girl
  • a rich child at Misselthwaite Hall who is lonely and cries at night
  • A grumpy but soft-hearted gardener
  • the gardens with their special magic
  • lots of talk about plants being wick
  • Friendly robins

However, there are also some unique additions:

  • a catch up with the original characters
  • World War 2 setting
  • A London orphanage evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall

I just took the book for what it was. A fun way to see what happened to Mary, Colin and Dickon, and a chance to wander nostalgically around the gardens. Nature bursts into life in the book, and that was my favourite part. I also really liked the new main character – Emmie – who is stubborn, sulky and screaming to be loved.

I was less impressed by how samey the plot was. And I never really understood why Jack was left to cry at night. Surely his mother would have noticed how he was feeling. After all it was hearing Colin’s pitiful cries all those years ago, that started the friendship between Colin and Mary. I feel Mary is portrayed as a slightly distant mother, and I wasn’t buying that. It was more of a plot device to make Jack seem like Colin, and so mirror the original storyline.

But, overall I had fun reading this, and I thought the writing flowed really well. Especially all the nature descriptions; the fabulous roses, the scrawny cat and the friendly robin.


Who should read Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb?

I’d only recommend this to you if you are a fan of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. If you already love the gardens at Misselthwaite, then you should enjoy this follow-up.



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7 Responses to “Book Review: Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb”

  1. Maureen Beatrice

    I never read ‘Return to the Secret Garden’. But I can totally see why it would be exciting to read a sequel to a book you loved so much long ago. Seeing how those characters are doing.. I would love that for some of my favorite books.
    Love that cheery cover!
    Maureen Beatrice recently posted…My Favorite.. Thing About Winter

  2. Lola

    That sounds great how you got to read a sequel to a book you loved as a kid. I did notice this one’s written by a different author, so is it more a retelling or a sequel? I am glad to hear you mostly enjoyed this one even though it was a bit too samey as the original story.
    Lola recently posted…Sunday Post #213

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