The Night Gardener

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
The Night Gardener Book Poster Image
Deliciously macabre, well-spun tale for fans of horror.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The imaginative story is set against the very real backdrop of Victorian England, which infuses the language and setting. The Great Famine in Ireland and England's industrialization play roles and are given further attention in the author's afterword. He also explains how his story was inspired by Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, Washington Irving's stories, and The Secret Garden


Positive Messages

The macabre plot explores themes of greed, human frailty, and vulnerability. Appearances, the children learn, can be deceiving, and cruelty and coldness sometimes conceal great hurt. It takes tremendous courage to confront evil -- and even more to set aside unrealistic dreams and desires.


Positive Role Models & Representations

Resilient, hardworking Molly and Kip are doing what they must to endure difficult times. Both are deeply empathetic: Molly uses her storytelling talent to comfort and protect her brother and the Windsors' young daughter, and Kip is keenly attuned to his sister and sensitive even to a bully. Initially put off by the ill-tempered family, the siblings come to view them with compassion and kindness. Master and Mistress Windsor and their son are particularly unpleasant at first, but by story's end their better selves shine brightly.


The Windsor family's lives are in clear danger from the night gardener and the terrifying tree he tends -- both are malevolent supernatural beings draining the life from the family. Several secondary characters are violently killed by the night gardener, other deaths are recounted, and two central characters are on the cusp of death. Debt collectors also menace the family, tying them up and preparing to kill them.


Master Windsor happily plants a kiss on his wife in a celebratory scene.


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A pipe-smoking, wandering storyteller brings children into a tavern to share a story over cider. Master Windsor smells of "ale and tobacco" after his visits to town, and his unhappy wife seems to drink wine all the time.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Night Gardener is a dark, scary horror story that delivers satisfying chills along with thoughtful messages on courage, empathy, and the power of storytelling. The supernatural creature stalking a desperate family might be too spooky for sensitive readers. Several characters meet a gruesome end, and others recount how they became orphaned. The paranormal night gardener causes an entire family to grow weak and ill, and the mother is in especially perilous condition.


User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 4 and 10-year-old Written byMr. M. A. Cat March 5, 2015

Kid Blown Away

My ten year old read this book in just a handful of sittings. He loved it. He totally freaked out at the supernatural stuff and his mind was blown at the end. H... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bylpolitz December 23, 2017

Maybe Mature

This is a fun story that is a little frightening. It depends on the child for the ages, but if they are mature, they can read this whether they are 9 or 10. If... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old March 20, 2016

Good writing

This has very descriptive writing that helps the suspense and moves the story line along well.

This book is in the horror genre, but to me, it seems more like... Continue reading

What's the story?

Separated from their parents on the journey from Ireland, Molly and Kip ignore their misgivings and go to work for the unhappy, ailing Windsors. The family, crushed by debt, is isolated in an eerie home dominated by a menacing black tree that's grown right through the walls. Molly and Kip soon discover the terrifying night man, who torments their sleep with nightmares and seems to be stealing their very souls. Molly's every instinct tells her she and Kip should run for their lives, but she's begun to fall under the spell of the mysterious tree. It seems to be giving her exactly what she wants…but she and her brother must decide what they really need to survive.

Is it any good?

Jonathan Auxier's THE NIGHT GARDENER is a spell-binding tale that deserves a spot on the shelf between Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. This is the stuff that nightmares are made of: The supernatural night man is relentlessly evil, cultivating a complex trap to ensnare Molly, Kip, and the Windsors. Though there's a fair amount of violence, it's the sustained suspense that makes this such a gripping read. 

Molly and Kip, who take turns on center stage, are likable, sympathetic heroes. As they discover the truth behind the Windsor family's circumstances, young readers might reflect on how little they really know about what goes on in another family's home. Don't be surprised if the fascinating night gardener and Molly's storytelling inspire readers to create their own spin-off tales and artwork. As Auxier makes clear, sometimes the best way to wrestle with something scary is by telling stories.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what Molly understands about stories and lies: A story helps people face an often frightening world, and a lie helps you hide. How have stories helped you?  


  • How does the Victorian setting contribute to the story?


  • Why do you enjoy scary stories? What makes The Night Gardener more or less chilling than other scary stories you've read or heard? 


Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror

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