In this module, we discussed Classic Children’s Literature. What makes a book a classic? Do these books deserve our attentions and awards? I picked The Secret Garden and Where the Wild Things Are as my books to review from our reading list. They are both about the finding wonderful worlds beyond our own.
The Secret Garden
In The Secret Garden, the world that Mary Lennox finds is a garden. It is in a state of disrepair when she first comes across it and she does not realize its importance to her cousin, the young crippled boy Colin, and his father, the master of the house, who is traveling. Mary soon learns that the garden was for the late mistress of the house and she convinces those left at the estate to fix up the garden. Colin’s health increases as the garden is brought to life. When his father returns, he is shocked to find his son running in the beautiful garden.
I do not usually like to read classic, historical books. When I was younger, I tried to read those Dear America books, but I found them boring. Too much talk, not enough Dragons. That is why I choose to read this book on the list. I wanted to branch out from what I know. I enjoyed the story a lot more than I thought I would. Mary is a very complex character that goes from being a spoiled brat to putting a family back together. I liked watching her relationship with Colin unfold. I think the secret of fixing up the garden is really what brought them together and made him stronger. I can see why kids would continue to read this book year after year. What little boy or girl can resist a good secret?
I found an interesting review of The Secret Garden that comments on how it has been interpreted as a religious commentary. Once I read the review, it made a little sense. Colin’s miraculous recovery may be an example of Christan science.
“Near the end, Burnett mechanically and unnecessarily interprets the garden as a symbol for the human mind; this discussion of the mind’s power—the danger of locking it up, the necessity of weeding out bad thoughts to plant good ones—is undoubtedly the reason some contemporary readers considered The Secret Garden a Christian Science book,” (1984, Bixler).
I think that this book would best benefit a shy, young reader. In a library setting, I would recommend this book to a kid who already likes classic books or who is looking for a good place to start reading the classics. A good display for this book might be “It’s a secret!” and include other books about secrets like The Name of this Book is SECRET.
Where the Wild Things Are
In this popular picture book, Max, a young boy who is a terror around the house, finds a secret world across the sea where he is becomes the king of the wild things. He soon misses home and its comforts so he returns.
This books completely dissevers its Caldecott Medal from 1964. The illustrations and the story are evocative and enchanting. Kids love to dress up and run around, terrorizing the place. A lot them like to think that they are king of the wild things, but at the end of the day they want that comfort of home. I think it is a wonderful story.
“Sendaks’ work has addressed problems as monumental for children as being in a rage at mother, relating to a depressed or emotionally unavailable mother, or coming to terms with a mother who cannot or will not recognize her child’s concerns or state of mind. He manages nonetheless to maintain the optimistic view that all of these troubles can be tamed, even if not fully overcome, through imagination” (2009, Gottlieb).
I’m sure this book has been circulating storytimes for decades. I would suggest this book as a way to attempt to calm down a terrible two year-old. If you let them them act all nuts, roar and gnash their teeth, it may help them work out their wild side. At the end of the story, you can emphasize how nice it feels to be back home, safe in bed.
Bixler, P. (1984). Frances Hodgson Burnett. Michigan: Twayne.
Burnett, F. H. (1911). The Secret Garden. New York: Frederick A. Stokes.
Gottlieb, R. (2009). Where the wild things are. Psychologist, 22(10), 846-849.
Sendak, M. (1963). Where the Wild Things Are. New York: Harper & Row.