Jennifer Adams

0 - 2 years, Board Books, Gibbs Smith

The Secret Garden

Words by Jennifer Adams

Illustration by Alison Oliver

Published by Gibbs Smith

'Little Miss Burnett: A Babylit Flower Primer: The Secret Garden' is a gorgeous board book that introduces flowers and colours to children using quotes from Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic novel 'The Secret Garden.' The book is simple, fun and colourful and is a pretty yet sturdy addition to any little library.

Each spread of the book is dedicated to a different springtime flower such as the columbine, daffodil or iris. One page of the spread has an illustration of a flower with a text label and the opposite page is a hand drawn pattern that contains a quote from the original text. Quotes examples are "crocuses burst into purple", "th' very little ones are snowdrops", "they'll look like a bed o' blue an' white butterflies", "iris rose out of the grass in sheaves". 

When reading 'The Secret Garden' from cover to cover, the quotes do not make much sense outside the context of the original text and are at times a little awkward ("th' woman in th' shop threw in a packet o' poppy seeds"). While the meaning of each quote may be lost on the young readers, most parents will appreciate this tribute to the classic text. Young readers will enjoy the colourful illustrations, trying to identify the different flowers and finding the hidden details contained within the beautiful patterns such as spider's webs, birds, keys, snails and watering cans.   

While I was enchanted by Alison Oliver's charming hand drawn illustrations, I have to admit that I was disappointed that this book does not introduce The Secret Garden's main character Mary Lennox or provide a basic plot outline. I think that other Babylit books such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Jungle Book are more successful and introduce new words from the vocabulary of the original books or provide an introduction to the great characters and stories contained within these literary classics. I will be reviewing Babylit's The Jungle Book Playset in a future review. 

With this said, this exquisite board book is the prettiest introduction to flowers that I have seen and it is refreshing to find a series of educational board books with substance. (Thank you Jennifer!) The Babylit series is a wonderful way for literature loving parents to be able to share the world of classic literature with their child. There is over 18 books in the series (Emma and Treasure Island are about to be released) and each board book is based on a classic novel by great authors such as Lewis Carroll, Leo Tolstoy, Jane Austen and Rudyard Kipling; and is combined with an educational theme such as counting, colours, sounds, animals and the spanish language. 

For any book loving parents, The Secret Garden (or any book from the Babylit series) will make a wonderful gift for a new baby as their first introduction in to the wonderful world of literature.  

Reviewed by Georgia White