The Locked Garden
Gloria Whelan
HarperCollins (2009)
ISBN 9780060790943
Reviewed by Sam Hartman (age 9) for Reader Views (8/09)

 

“The LockedGarden,” by Gloria Whelan, is a realistic fiction book stationed in the year 1901.  This book is about two girls, Carrie and Verna, their dad, and their aunt.  Their mother had died a few months ago and when their dad got a job offer from an asylum (a hospital for people who have mental disorders), they decided to move.  They were hoping to get a fresh start in a new house and escape their sad memories.  After one week, the family gets a maid from the asylum, Eleanor.  But their aunt doesn’t like the idea of a patient working in their house because she thinks all the patients are crazy.  The girls, however, think Eleanor is very nice and form a strong bond with her, almost like she is a new mother.  The book tells us about the bonds between Eleanor and the girls and how they help each other make it through tough times.

One of the things I liked about this book is that there are lots of characters that appear in a few scenes and never come back in the book again.  They play very small roles in the story but are vital to the book.  For example, the gardener, Louis, tells them about the locked gardens in the asylum and helps them find Eleanor there.   James, who was one of their classmates, helped them out of a fight and brought them to his house to give Carrie a rabbit.  The rabbit plays an important part in healing Eleanor, another example of a small character that keeps the story flowing.  In some ways, this book reminds me of my daily life because I run into so many different people every day that I see for only a few minutes, but still impact me.

This book did not have a complicated plot, but the message was very important.  The message is that not everyone who is mentally sick is crazy.  Even though Eleanor was mentally sick, she could still help the girls.  The girls also learned that people at the asylum could heal in different ways.  Some people healed from spending time with nature and some healed from music.  I would recommend “The Locked Garden” by Gloria Whelan for ages 10 and up since the topic is pretty complex.  This book is also intended for people who don’t want a story with excitement but want to really get to know all the characters.

 

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