The Mysterious Bookshop

Auxier, Jonathan, The Night Gardener

Finalist for the 2014 Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature—Text

Gr 4–6—Storytelling and the secret desires of the heart wind together in this atmospheric novel that doubles as a ghost tale. Irish immigrants to England, Molly and Kip make their way to the Windsor house in search of employment. The great house stands in the shadow of a menacing tree, which locals speak of only in fearful whispers. Despite her young age and the warnings of a local storyteller, Molly uses the power of her own words to secure work, but soon realizes that all is not right in the house. Constance, Bertrand, Penny, and Alistair Windsor each struggle with personal demons, and strange footprints appear at night. A malevolent spirit, the Night Gardener, haunts the estate, dooming its inhabitants with foul dreams while the tree grants wishes to entrap the recipients. Molly and Kip must face their own dark secrets to release the Gardener's hold and end his evil enchantments. Auxier gives readers a spooky story with depth and dimension. Molly's whimsical tales illustrate life's essential lessons even as they entertain. As the characters face the unhealthy pull of the tree's allurements, they grow and change, revealing unexpected personality traits. Storytelling as a force to cope with life's challenges is subtly expressed and adds complexity to the fast-paced plot. Readers of Mary Downing Hahn or Peg Kehret's ghost novels will connect with the supernatural elements and the independent child protagonists of Auxier's tale of things that go bump in the night.—Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CT

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