First a short background story…
I remember being in Junior High school way back in the late 80s and reading Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I was in eighth or maybe ninth grade, he says with a scrunched up confused face, and I was in a literature class that I remember giving a little more attention to than I normally did back in those school days, as the teacher was a friend of my dad and she knew our family some. We read some great classic literature that I just barely understood at the time. I remember reading Fahrenheit 451 and, this was a new idea in schools at the time for me, we watched the movie and compared the story to the film. I vividly remember reading Something Wicked This Way Comes and then sitting in a bland Junior High School classroom and watching the 1983 Disney version of that story on a giant Zenith TV on a rolling cart and being scared out of my wits. I am not a fan of scary things. I think, if I really sit down and think about it, I can trace my feeling on all things scary to just a few events in my teen life.
One… Seeing the movie Alien on VHS tape in my basement, probably around the same time I was reading Something Wicked.
Two… Visiting a Haunted House, where the college kids running the show reached out and grabbed you and chased you out of the abandoned house with a real chainsaw, minus the blade, I think. Again, probably around the same time as I was reading Something Wicked.
Three… Something Wicked This Way Comes, both the book and that Disney film. I remember thinking to myself as I watched the movie, “This can’t be Disney, it’s freaking me out too much.”
I did manage to find a coping mechanism for all things scary in my life… Archie and Jughead comics. They alone seemed to have the remedy my fear addled mind needed.
So I have fostered my disdain for the horror and scary world to this day. I don’t prefer scary storied or movies and don’t understand why someone would spend good money to be so scared they pee their pants.
So that little background story brings me to The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.
I read, and really enjoyed the adventure that was Mr. Auxier’s debut novel, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. I shared parts with my fantasy themed book club and did a few fun games based off the story. To be truthful, I would love to do more with that story, Winter Breaks and Snow Days have stolen so much of my time.
I was approached, via Twitter, by Mr. Auxier to read his new novel and possibly work out some activities to go along with the story. I happily agreed and just a few days ago I received a copy of The Night Gardener, scheduled for release this May.
I really had no idea what this new novel was about, so I flipped to the author’s notes before starting the story. I was a little apprehensive when I read that Mr. Auxier’s biggest influence for this story was, of course, Something Wicked This Way Comes! Really!
So decided that I could do it and I jumped into this “Victorian Ghost Story” with equal bits excitement and dread. Having finished I can safely say the excitement won out over the dread and I had nothing but fun reading this fine novel.
The Night Gardener tells the tale of two Irish siblings who, though suffering from lack of parents, money, food and the simple fact that they are second class Irish in Victorian England, seem to be more adept than most teens and preteens I know today.
They find themselves in the employ of a nasty mother, her two spoiled children and their absent father in a gigantic manor house in the aptly named Sourwoods. The mystery of the gigantic tree that is growing into said manor house intrigues our heroes Molly and her brother Kip, but not as much as the strange footprints and stories they hear about a “Night Man.”
With wit, pluck and a good storyteller the siblings and the family are able to escape the dangers of their home, thankfully without a “Scooby-Doo,” “I would have got away with it, if it wasn’t for you pesky kids” ending.
So I made it to the end of this ghost story without being scared out of my mind, but had ample opportunity to wonder what was lurking out my window. Fans of creepy stories, as well as fantasy and adventure lovers with gobble up this tale that not only entertains, but reminds us to be careful what we wish for and what that might cost.
The Night Gardener comes out May 20, mark your calendars.