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Friday, October 10, 2014

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Book Review: The Night Gardener

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier is spooky tale much spookier than what you would expect from a book placed on the Middle Grade shelf. I found myself having to take breaks in the middle of the day so I wouldn't get too creeped out. Granted, I'm a big 'ole wuss.

But beneath the spooky elements is a wonderfully crafted narrative filled with rich characters, magic, and mystery making it a perfect read for the season.

Molly and Kip ride into town in a stolen cart pulled by a stolen horse in search of the Windsors. Fleeing the Irish potato famine the red-headed brother and sister pair are looking for their new employer's house, but no one will tell them how to get here. The villagers say they are better off never finding it than going to the Windsors' house in the sour woods. And once Molly and Kip do arrive, they realize the villagers may have been right.

The once great house stands next to a massive black tree that has wrapped it's roots and branches around the building to become one with the dwelling. Inside lives a pale family with dark hair and dark eyes, and every night they all have terrible dreams. Molly and Kip cannot ignore the strangeness of the place and begin to think there may be someone visiting the house at night, but that someone doesn't seem quite human.

I told you it was spooky. But it's not all darkness. The strong characters light the way through the magic and mystery. I absolutely loved them, Molly especially. They are just the kind of characters that will help a younger reader get through a scarier tale. And they're also great types of characters for the young reader to learn from, for not only are they interesting characters, but they learn a lot a long the way, and not all lessons have to do with escaping a house connected to a tree that may or may not be conscious.

Auxier also does a very good job of introducing us to and building the darkness. Molly and Kip, like the readers, are slowly introduced to the mysterious Windsors and their mysterious tree. The tension builds as we want to know more and more about what is going on. We learn little bits at a time, but not enough to know the full truth. The anticipation builds, the suspense reaches a head, and the spookiness explodes into a great climax. It may creep you out, but, man, is it a good read.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in sitting around the October campfire and reading a truly classic ghost story.

Title: The Night Gardener

Author:  Jonathan Auxier

Genre: Middle Grade Horror

Recommendation: Yes

Best Reader Audience: Male and Female readers of all ages (with a moderate to high constitution for spookiness)

Final Rating: Five out of Five mugs of hot chocolate

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