The Secret Garden

Last updated Sunday, September 8, 2013

Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Illustrator: Robin Lawrie
Date of Publication: 1911
ISBN: 0142419613
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Sep. 2013

The discovery of a neglected garden transforms the life of a sullen and unloved little girl-and everyone around her, too. When the newly orphaned Mary Lennox leaves her native India and arrives at her uncle's mansion in Yorkshire, everything seems strange to her. Then Mary hears of a mysterious garden where no one has set foot in 10 years. With the help of some new friends, she plans to uncover its secrets...and make it blossom once again.

Note to readers:
•  Chapter 1 is an interesting part about how Mary becomes an orphan. You might consider skipping Chapters 2 & 3, which are about Mary traveling to her uncle's manor. Chapters 4-8 are about Mary's first days at the manor & her new maid, Martha. (Please note, in Chapter 4 there is discussion between Mary & Martha about black (or native) people from India. If you are uncomfortable reading or discussing this with the 5th graders, you may want to skip this part.) In Chapter 9, Mary discovers the secret garden.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever gardened before?
•  What do you think makes this garden a secret?
•  Where is India? Where is England? (There may be a map in the room to point out these locations.)

•  Ayah: nanny; nursemaid
•  Mem Sahib: Mary's mother, Mrs. Lennox
•  tyrannical: unjustly cruel or harsh
•  cholera: an infectious disease most often found in India or China
•  smart: expensive looking, well-dressed
•  moor: "just miles and miles and miles of wild land that nothing grows on but heather and gorse and broom, and nothing lives on but wild ponies and sheep."
•  obsequious: obedient
•  salaam: a salute usually made by Muslims consisting of a deep bow with the right palm on the forehead
•  scullerymaid: the lowest-ranked and often youngest of the female servants in a very large house
•  vexed: irritated; annoyed

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What were Mary's parents like?
•  Would you be friends with Mary?
•  Mary likes to make it seem she is not interested in what other people say, even though she is interested. Do you do that, or know someone who does that? Why do you think people do that? Is it a positive trait?
•  Do you think Mary is spoiled? Why? Is it her fault she is spoiled?
•  What makes Misselthwaite Manor seem so strange?
•  How is Martha different from other servants Mary has known?

Craft ideas:
•  Draw a picture of the secret garden based on the description given in the book (beginning of Chapter 9).
•  Draw how you picture Misselthwaite Manor, or what you imagine might be in one of the locked-up rooms.
•  Design your own key. Draw a simple or elaborate key, then cut out. Loop a long piece of yarn through it and wear as a necklace.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!