The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden
retold by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Margarita Kukhtina
Nosy Crow

If you’re looking for a beautifully designed gift edition of this Frances Hodgson Burnett classic, look no further than award-winning author Geraldine McCaughrean’s retelling with its gorgeous art work by Margarita Kukhtina.

I loved the story as a child and have continued to do so since; I’m sure this version will create a new generation of readers equally fond of the tale of Indian born Mary Lennox who is orphaned and sent to live with her uncle in England, to be brought up in Misselthwaite Manor, a disquietingly gloomy building.
There she meets housekeeper Mrs Medlock

and the kindly servant, Martha. There is a huge culture shock for the spoiled girl who’s more than a little angry at the situation she now finds herself in. She’s lonely too though, until she discovers a walled garden that has been kept secret for years.

In that garden, she meets Ben Weatherstaff, an elderly gardener and his friend Mr Robin. Later she unearths the key and with it unlocks the wonder that lies beyond the garden walls.

First though she finds the gentle Dickon who talks to animals and birds and the sickly Colin: through them she also discovers that making friends like these two can be every bit as life-enhancing as a magical garden.

With Geraldine McCaughrean’s supreme story-telling skill and totally captivating illustrations as rich as the text, this tale of light and darkness is destined to be the go-to way to introduce the story to children of today.

The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen
retold by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Laura Barrett
Orchard Books

Like everything else she writes, award-winning author, Geraldine McCaughrean’s retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen classic tale is simply stupendous: the way she uses words herein is sheer enchantment: ‘From that moment, Kai was full of goblin mischief … and empty of joy. … And when in the market square, he saw the beautiful lady again, in her curlicue silver sleigh, he just climbed in beside her. Had to. Something made him. A magic bigger than mischief.’

That’s when Kai disappears in the company of the wicked Snow Queen and thus begins the search for Gerda’s dearest friend.

During her search Gerda encounters a kindly witch, a clever crow, a prince and princess,

a den of robbers and in particular a Robber Girl. It’s the latter who gives her a pet reindeer to ride.

At the top of the world she comes to a house wherein dwells a wise woman who knows the way to the palace of the Snow Queen. This woman urges Gerda to find courage and sends her on her way.

And find Kai she does, once the Snow Queen has departed leaving him with a puzzle to solve, but convinced he’ll fail.

However with Gerda at his side, a word takes shape …

and then it’s time to flee for their lives, Gerda, Kai and two brave reindeer …

Geraldine’s out of this world telling has the perfect illustrator in Laura Barrett. Putting me in mind rather of Lotte Reiniger and Jan Pieńkowski’s work, her silhouette illustrations are incredibly beautiful.

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid
Geraldine McCaughrean and Laura Barrett
Orchard Books

Storyteller extraordinaire Geraldine McCaughrean retells the Hans Christian Andersen classic tale as only she can, making it a real joy to read aloud.

Delphine the youngest of six mermaid sisters hears from her siblings of the wonders of the world above the sea’s surface and can hardly wait for her special coming of age birthday when she too will be allowed to venture up.

When the great day arrives it’s a joyful Delphine who swims to the surface and begins to sing in her wonderful voice.
As she does so another celebration is taking place aboard a great ship anchored close by. The sight of the prince’s face sends her heart spinning but suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, there comes a huge storm engulfing the ship entirely beneath the waves.

Delphine manages to rescue the prince taking him to a safe place on land not far from what she thinks must be his palace home, and there she leaves him knowing she must never be seen by human eyes.

As her songs grow ever sadder fuelled by her nightly swims to the cove near the palace, it becomes clear to her sisters that she has fallen in love with the prince.

Determined to become his wife, Delphine visits the sea witch and a deal is struck – a potion to render her human in exchange for her beautiful voice.

But that is just part of the enormous price Delphine has to pay. It’s not she who marries the prince but another beauty.

The tragedy doesn’t end there, as those familiar with the original will know

and others must learn from this utterly enchanting rendition that is made all the more magical by Laura Barrett’s silhouette style illustrations.

Assuredly a book for lovers of fairy tales, young and not so young; buy it to keep and buy it to give; buy it for home and buy it for school.