The Night Garden

304p. Farrar. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374304522.
Gr 4–6—World War II hasn't affected 12-year-old Franny's rustic, idyllic life on Vancouver Island, BC. While her mother Sina sculpts, she writes and explores the many gardens tended by her father, Old Tom. But there is one garden he forbids Franny to enter: the ancient night garden. Legend says that a person can make one wish while in the night garden and it will come true, but that wish cannot be undone. Contented Franny has little interest in wishes until the family's peace is disrupted: a neighbor suddenly leaves her three children with Sina while she goes off to prevent her husband, a mechanic who works on top-secret military planes, from doing "something terrible." The neighbor kids and Franny become embroiled in the mystery surrounding the mechanic when letters from him arrive containing ominous clues to his intent. The children see the night garden as their only chance to help, so they defy Old Tom and test the garden's legend. Franny's first-person narration, rich with droll insights, balances the plot's tension and reveals her awareness of the extraordinary magic that envelops her farm, "alive and breathing with suppressed something." National Book Award winner Horvath writes with accessible eloquence, making what would be fantastical in another setting quite plausible on this island populated with whimsical, winsome characters.
VERDICT Thoughtful, hilarious, and moving; repeated readings reveal even more to appreciate in this superbly crafted tale. An essential purchase for all middle grade collections.

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