The woods behind a girl’s house contain a long-concealed garden that she and her uncle work to restore, in Thurston Pope’s charming children’s picture book Maggie’s Secret Garden.
Maggie lives in a house that once belonged to her grandparents. She sees her uncle bringing tools into the woods near the house and hears him working there, over the course of days, until he reveals the result of his efforts: He’s cleared 15 years’ worth of brush and debris from a large garden that contains sidewalks, a playhouse, and much more. He tells Maggie that the garden was created by her great-grandparents, and she helps clean up the last bits of mess. When the work is done, Maggie enjoys the beautiful garden with her friends.
Maggie’s Secret Garden looks wonderful, from its lush, colorful, detailed illustrations by Angela C. Hawkins to the book design itself, which makes excellent use of spacing along with an array of different-sized fonts to indicate sound effects or emphasize dialogue.
The text tells the story well, in easy to follow, simple sentences. And although the dramatic tension is minimal, the tale has resonance because it is a true story—and because the idea of a hidden backyard garden has innate appeal: What child wouldn’t love imagining they, too, had a special place like this?
There is one misstep: a page that discusses Maggie noticing “tall trees lining her back yard,” yet shows Maggie playing in a sandbox and inflatable swimming pool, rather than looking at trees. But that’s a quibble.
Overall, Maggie’s Secret Garden is a pleasant, entertaining, and visually appealing picture book that reminds readers of the legacy that love leaves behind. Writes Pope: “Now, when Maggie looks outside, she sees more than woods. She sees a treasure in her own back yard.”
Also available in hardcover.