Friday, March 13, 2015

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier is a delightfully creepy middle-grade tale.

Siblings Molly and Kip escaped the Irish potato famine only to find themselves orphaned and penniless in unfriendly England. To soften the harsh realities of their situation for her younger brother, Molly spins stories for him as they travel to their new home. The only place Molly can find work is at the creepy Windsor mansion in the foreboding Sourwoods. She was prepared to tell all sorts of stories to get hired, but in truth, the solicitor who gave her the job seemed almost too anxious to fill the position. When they arrive at the Windsor estate, they find a crumbling old house dominated by an enormous black tree that almost seems to have the entire house in its grasp. The house is full of secrets, including a locked room, nightmares that plague every inhabitant, and muddy footprints that mysteriously appear during the night. Despite the unlikelihood of finding another job, Molly is tempted to take Kip and leave -- until, one day, she discovers what waits in the locked room . . .

On the rare occasions when I read something that might be classified as horror, I feel the need to add the disclaimer that I don't usually do horror, so hardcore fans of the genre will probably laugh derisively at my idea of what is scary. That said, I thought this was a great story, with just the right level of scariness for, say, a fourth or fifth grade reader who has graduated from the Goosebumps books and wants something with a little more substance. (Or for wimpy adults like me.)

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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