Lisa's Reviews > The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
32532774
's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: children, favorites, unforgettable

“Two worst things as can happen to a child is never to have his own way - or always to have it.”

As a child, I read this book at least four or five times, along with Frances Hodgson Burnett's other childhood stories about Sarah Crewe (Little Princess) and Cedric (Lord Fauntleroy). They represented a rite of passage for me as a person and as a reader. There is magic involved in coming-of-age stories where children strive to find the kind of life they are meant to live, against all odds, and I felt deeply satisfied each time I closed one of those books, knowing that the protagonists had (once again) made it through various challenges to live a better, more natural and fulfilled life.

So far, so good.

Some childhood classics are better left alone later, signifying a certain phase that can only be "demystified" by rereading, leading to bitter disappointment and loss of the initial enchantment. I hadn't touched The Secret Garden for decades, as I feared the slightly exaggerated, dramatised plot might put me off, and destroy the magic of my memory.

But then I happened to discuss a phenomenon among students in a wealthy, over-privileged area. Many children and teenagers appear phlegmatic, angry, frustrated, lacking initiative to learn and develop, and they demand unreasonable attention without showing any willingness to commit to tasks themselves. We could not make sense of it, seeing that these students had "everything they needed, and more", and met with no restrictions or boundaries from their parents. Shouldn't they be happy? But they aren't. They are among the most neurotic, anxious children I have ever met.

That's when The Secret Garden came to my mind again, - an early case study of childhood neglect in wealthy environments, in which children's physical and material needs are met, but their psychological development is completely left untouched. In The Secret Garden, it is the poor, but well-raised and deeply loved local boy who shows the spoiled, unhappy upper class children how to take on a responsible role for their life, and how to make active and positive decisions rather than throwing fits to let others step in and take over.

Children need boundaries, and nurturing, and meaningful connections to their surroundings. If they are treated with fear and submission, they will turn into tyrants to see how far they can go before they receive some kind of direct attention, negative or positive. If they are handled with too much severity, they will duck and hide, and develop chameleon-like survival strategies. To create a happy, mature, and responsible human being, a balance between rights and duties must be struck, with limits the child knows it cannot overstep without facing consequences, and with areas of creative experimentation, where future freedom of choice can be safely practised.

Just like a flower in a garden, a child needs both space, time and air, and a lot of nurturing, to blossom. I am grateful for the connection I found between my childhood reading pleasure and the everyday worries I face in my profession. A smile, a word of encouragement, a nudge in the right direction, all the small signs that show students that their teachers believe in their power to achieve great things - that's the magic of everyday life. And giving in to their tantrums is not helping those sensitive plants grow. It is stifling their development.

When they claim they are too "tired" or "bored" to read The Secret Garden, and prefer to watch a movie version (if at all), they are in more dire need of overcoming the obstacle of long-term under-stimulation than the protagonists of the story itself. They need to be trained to love reading just like the two unhappy children in the mansion needed to be trained to show interest and care for the garden.

Responsibility and care are acquired skills!
142 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Secret Garden.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Finished Reading
June 25, 2014 – Shelved
June 26, 2014 – Shelved as: children
June 29, 2017 – Shelved as: favorites
June 29, 2017 – Shelved as: unforgettable

Comments Showing 1-35 of 35 (35 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Maricarmen Estrada M What a beautiful and accurate review


Lisa Maricarmen wrote: "What a beautiful and accurate review"

Thank you so much, Maricarmen!


message 3: by Jan-Maat (new)

Jan-Maat Are you back teaching then Lisa?


Lisa Jan-Maat wrote: "Are you back teaching then Lisa?"

I am, Jan-Maat! In March, I decided to give it another chance, as I missed the interaction with the kids so much. Different administration, school system, and general set up, but same passion. I don't know what the future holds, and I am determined to re-evaluate my decision from time to time. At the moment, I am quite pleased.


message 5: by Jan-Maat (new)

Jan-Maat Good, I am happy for you (and for the children too)


message 6: by Violet (new)

Violet wells "they demand unreasonable attention without showing any willingness to commit to tasks themselves." Reminds me of authors here who befriend you without reading any of your reviews, don't write reviews themselves but expect you to read their book just because they've sent you a friend request!
I've never read this. Not sure how this happened.


Ivana Books Are Magic what a lovely metaphor- comparing a child to a flower. I do agree with you. Most people think of neglect in terms of not fulfilling basic needs of a child- but a child can be well fed, clothed even educated ...and still be completely neglected. If the parents are either too busy, not willing to connect emotionally, or to pay attention to that child, that child will probably do whatever it takes to get that attention- and often will develop destructive habits because it will perceive negative attention as attention- and hence worth the trouble.


Lisa Violet wrote: ""they demand unreasonable attention without showing any willingness to commit to tasks themselves." Reminds me of authors here who befriend you without reading any of your reviews, don't write revi..."

Yes, Violet! That comparison works well. I have always wondered at the sheer impertinence of those "entitled" writers, using independent readers as advertisement tools for their own rnrichment. But you are right: the behaviour strongly resembles that of neglected, wealthy children.


Lisa Ivana wrote: "what a lovely metaphor- comparing a child to a flower. I do agree with you. Most people think of neglect in terms of not fulfilling basic needs of a child- but a child can be well fed, clothed even..."

There are so many of them unfortunately. Wealth is not a guarantee forgood up-bringing, and if parents live in an egocentric bubble, children starve emotionally, while being overfed materially.


message 10: by Tracy (new) - added it

Tracy What an absolutely beautiful review. I loved all of FHB's book that I have read but this is my favourite.


Ivana Books Are Magic Lisa wrote: "Ivana wrote: "what a lovely metaphor- comparing a child to a flower. I do agree with you. Most people think of neglect in terms of not fulfilling basic needs of a child- but a child can be well fed..."

yes, certainly...one can only hope that such children will find courage to grow up into adults that aren't afraid to love and feel.


message 12: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Jean-Paul wrote: "One of my all time favourite books. Your review brought back delightful memories."

Yes, I remember this is one of your favourites as well. Her books about struggling children are quite timeless, despite their Victorian setting!


message 13: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Tracy wrote: "What an absolutely beautiful review. I loved all of FHB's book that I have read but this is my favourite."

Thank you, Tracy! I also loved all of them. I think The Little Princess was my favourite first, and then it changed to this one.


message 14: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Ivana wrote: "Lisa wrote: "Ivana wrote: "what a lovely metaphor- comparing a child to a flower. I do agree with you. Most people think of neglect in terms of not fulfilling basic needs of a child- but a child ca..."

Indeed, Ivana! It is always possible to break a vicious circle.


message 15: by Joudy (new)

Joudy exuberant and enchanting review in its entirety, I need to read it!!


Jaline This is a lovely review, Lisa! I have read this book a few times as well - it was the first one I downloaded and read on my first eReader 6 years ago as I wanted it to be a momentous occasion. :)

I agree that some children need to be trained to read. I think it does help a lot when parents start out reading to children very young. However, some children need more than that to engage their busy little minds. :)


message 17: by Lyn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lyn Elliott Wonderful, thoughtful review of one of my all time favorites too.


message 18: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Joudy wrote: "exuberant and enchanting review in its entirety, I need to read it!!"

Thank you very much, Joudy!


message 19: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Jaline wrote: "This is a lovely review, Lisa! I have read this book a few times as well - it was the first one I downloaded and read on my first eReader 6 years ago as I wanted it to be a momentous occasion. :)

..."


Thank you, Jaline! When I worked in a school library, some years ago, I had the opportunity to study the change in children once theystepped out of their comfort zones and tried reading on a higher level. As grown-up booklovers, we can do a lot to nurture kids' interests!


message 20: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Lyn wrote: "Wonderful, thoughtful review of one of my all time favorites too."

Thank you so much, Lyn!


message 21: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Marita wrote: "Ditto what Lyn said, Lisa."

It is always such a pleasure to discover how many of us share classic favourites, Marita!


message 22: by ·Karen· (new) - added it

·Karen· Such wise words. And a good review to boot.


message 23: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope I have not read this book (yet).. loved reading about reading and long-term under-stimulation and how important it is for us all (children and adults) to maintain.


message 24: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa ·Karen· wrote: "Such wise words. And a good review to boot."

Thanks so much, Karen!


message 25: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Kalliope wrote: "I have not read this book (yet).. loved reading about reading and long-term under-stimulation and how important it is for us all (children and adults) to maintain."

I agree, Kalliope! Grown-ups have to maintain their reading skills as well. I recognise that whenever I have read "easy" books for a while - the concentration level is significantly lowered and I have to wotk my way back into complex stories.


message 26: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala I missed this book in childhood - I lived too far away from bookshops or libraries - but I've really enjoyed hearing about its message via your childhood and adult experiences, Lisa - and as usual, you give your review the wider focus we've come to expect from you. I'm glad to hear you're back teaching. I'm betting these kids who are currently too lazy to read will all be turned into confirmed bookaholics if they get to have you teaching them next year!


message 27: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Fionnuala wrote: "I missed this book in childhood - I lived too far away from bookshops or libraries - but I've really enjoyed hearing about its message via your childhood and adult experiences, Lisa - and as usual,..."

Thank you, Fionnuala! I am quite happy myself to be back in teaching - I missed it. It is interesting to think about which classics we read as children, and which we missed. I randomly read what was available in my environment, but still have so many gaps to fill - and so many great GR recommendations to follow. It is a true neverending story...


Jaline Lisa wrote: "Thank you, Jaline! When I worked in a school library, some years ago, I had the opportunity to study the change in children once they stepped out of their comfort zones and tried reading on a higher level. As grown-up booklovers, we can do a lot to nurture kids' interests!"

You are welcome, Lisa! When I was younger I wanted to be a librarian - anywhere! That never came to pass, but I have always supported my local libraries everywhere I have lived. I agree that there is a lot we can do to nurture kids' interests. Like you, literacy - and the keys to freedom it holds - has been a lifelong passion of mine. :)


message 29: by Cecily (new)

Cecily Ah yes, I was a Hodgson Burnett devotee, but like you, I'm often wary of revisiting childhood favourites. How wonderful that it was not just enjoyable, but useful, too.


message 30: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Cecily wrote: "Ah yes, I was a Hodgson Burnett devotee, but like you, I'm often wary of revisiting childhood favourites. How wonderful that it was not just enjoyable, but useful, too."

Yes, sometimes the old favourites come back full speed when you least expect it. I assume that is what classics do - they meet up with you whenever you need them!


all around atlantis "
Responsibility and care are acquired skills!"

Or so the appearances seems to tell us.


message 32: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa all around atlantis wrote: ""
Responsibility and care are acquired skills!"

Or so the appearances seems to tell us."


It definitely takes some kind of training to develop them, in my opinion.


message 33: by Helen (new) - added it

Helen Lovely review, Lisa.


message 34: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Helen wrote: "Lovely review, Lisa."

Thanks so much, Helen!


message 35: by Mya (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mya I think this was a wonderful book based on imagination mystery and so much more th storyline is anything but boring and so full of exitment for me I really liked it and being younger and to enjoy such a book like this feels nice and great to read on a higher level but still understand and comprehend everything as if I was reading in my level


back to top