Monday, July 14, 2014

MMGM: The Night Gardener

by Jonathan Auxier
(May 20th, 2014, Amulet Books)


Book Description:  

Molly and Kip are young Irish immigrants to England. When they are separated from their parents on the journey, they try to find employment. But no one will have their “kind”, and they are forced to take jobs at the foreboding, and supposedly cursed, Windsor estate. At first, the siblings are grateful to have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. But soon they discover that things aren’t as they seem. The family that Molly and Kip work for grow thin and pale with each passing day and a ghostly presence roams the grounds at night. Behind a green door, Molly finds a tree that grants you heart’s desire…but at what price?


I had read the author’s first book (Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes) and liked but didn’t love it. So when I started The Night Gardener I was expecting more of the same. I was pleasantly surprised. Even though this book still had the same old-fashioned feel as Peter Nimble, it read more like a scary bedtime story than a high-flying fantasy.

The writing is as beautiful as I had come to expect from Auxier, perfect for reading aloud or on your own. The mystery of the night man aka the Night Gardener, though not groundbreaking, was truly intriguing and had just the right amount of creepy.

The main characters, Kip and Molly, were both very well-realized and deeply empathic. Each of them were struggling with their individual fears and learning to cope with the hand they were dealt as best as they could. Their love and loyalty to each other was the most wonderful thing about the book. It made me realize how underrepresented genuinely complex sibling relationships are in children’s fiction, especially now with friendships and love interests taking priority.


For the most part the Night Gardener is a very solid book, with little missing as far as the elements of good writing are concerned.  If I could make a change it would be adding more action earlier in the book rather than leaving most of it to the last third.


Though the Night Gardener treads familiar ground with its gothic English moors setting and fable-like storytelling, its modern sensibilities, gentle wisdom and genuine mystery make it compelling and fresh. This is a dark gem to be read and treasured by readers of all ages.

Rating: (8/10)

Get it on Book Depository

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For more excellent MG recommendations go to:  Shannon Messenger's blog


  1. I love the cover and had not heard of this one before. Thanks for featuring and I will add it to my extremely long TBR list. .

    1. Hopefully you'll enjoy it. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I think I saw this cover somewhere before and it stuck in my brain, but also kind of pushed me away as I don't usually do creepy. Based on your description, I think I'll give it a chance. Thanks for giving me the nudge!

    1. We're glad the review helped. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I don't usually do creepy either, but I'm intrigued by the more old-fashioned/gothic element you mention. I've read some great interviews with the author--and will have to check this out.

    1. We hope you do. It's worth reading. Thanks for checking out our review!

  4. A friend just recommended this to me, so I will probably check it out. Thanks for confirming my friend's recommendation.

  5. You're welcome and thanks for commenting!