The Night Gardener

Common Sense Media says

Deliciously macabre, well-spun tale for fans of horror.




ALA Best and Notable Books

What parents need to know

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

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.


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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.

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.


Parents say

Kids say

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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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Jonathan Auxier
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
Number of pages:368
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

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Educator and 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. He just had to read more by Jonathan Auxier - so, we tracked down Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes from the library. That book was just as good.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages


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