The Night Gardener
By Darienne Stewart,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Deliciously macabre, well-spun tale for fans of horror.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Master Windsor happily plants a kiss on his wife in a celebratory scene.
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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.
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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.
Where to Read
Based on 1 parent review
Kid Blown Away
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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?
- Author: Jonathan Auxier
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Amulet Books
- Publication date: May 20, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 17
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
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