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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Top 100 Children’s Novels (#8)

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)
(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1) (#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#2) (#2)(#2)(#2)(#3)(#3)(#3) (#3)(#3)(#3)(#3)(#4)(#4) (#4)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4) (#5)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#5) (#5)(#6)(#6)(#6)(#6)(#7) (#7)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#7) (#7)(#7)(#8)(#8)(#9)(#9) (#9)(#10)(#10)(#10) – 371 points

The Next Whole Earth Catalog described this as “a couple of neurotic kids nursing themselves back to health in a garden,” which just goes to show that every generation finds what they need here. Incredible that the same author wrote Little Lord Fauntleroy. – Susan Ramsey

Again and again, I find myself thinking about character as I create this Top Ten list. Which makes The Secret Garden a somewhat surprising choice, since Mary is not a likable child. But who wants to read about sweet little dears who never have to worry about a thing? I’ve always loved how Mary managed first to survive, and then to find beauty and love in a world entirely unwilling to offer her those things. Her request for a bit of earth is right up there with Oliver’s request for more food, and it ends up changing the lives of everyone around her. The garden itself is a character in the book, a place of refuge and kindness, like the best books themselves. To this day, I keep plants around me, as well as books. Mary taught me that. – Kate Coombs (Book Aunt)

The one book I read every year. Nothing revives a dreary New England-winter-that-seems-like-it-will-never-end than some quality time with Mary Lennox. – Eliza Brown, Assistant Retail Manager, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

I have the burning desire to reread this every spring. It’s the kind of beautiful-growing-life-stuff that is so much more powerful because it starts out in the depths. I love that it right off tells you the main character is the most disagreeable child ever, and then it kills off everybody she knows right in the first chapter, and then she meets more disagreeable people, and it makes the coming to life, not just of the garden but of everybody, MEAN something. – A.M. Weir (Amy’s Library of ROCK)

I know all the reasons not to like this–the shift in focus from Mary to Colin, the reassertion of the patriarchy at the end, the well-intentioned but nonetheless problematic depiction of India–but it’s still one of those books I return to year after year. If, as Perry Nodelman says, children’s books are all about teaching kids how to be kids, this one is the quintessential children’s book. And yet its depiction of "appropriate childhood" is so appealing to me, even now, that I keep coming back to it. – Libby Gruner

Every child wants a secret place of their own but it’s even better when the secret is shared with a few good friends. – Kristen M. (We Be Reading)

It still lives inside of me like ripening fruit. – Priscilla Cordero, Ocean County Library, Toms River, NJ

To my mind, this is almost a perfect children’s book.  Indeed of the ten books on the Top Ten list, it is probably the title I remember best from my childhood.

The synopsis from the publisher reads, "Has any story ever dared to begin by calling its heroine, ‘the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen’ and, just a few sentences later, ‘as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived?’ Mary Lennox is the ‘little pig,’ sent to Misselthwaite Manor, on the Yorkshire moors, to live with her uncle after her parents die of cholera. There she discovers her sickly cousin Colin, who is equally obnoxious and imperious. Both love no one because they have never been loved. They are the book’s spiritual secret gardens, needing only the right kind of care to bloom into lovely children.  Mary also discovers a literal secret garden, hidden behind a locked gate on her uncle’s estate, neglected for the ten years since Colin’s birth and his mother’s death. Together with a local child named Dickon, Mary and Colin transform the garden into a paradise bursting with life and color. Through their newfound mutual love of nature, they nurture each other, until they are brought back to health and happiness."

A.S. Byatt once referred to Frances Hodgson Burnett as "Perhaps the first truly transatlantic writer."  This may strike you as strange, until you know the woman’s history.  When The Secret Garden was written Ms. Burnett was living in . . . wait for it . . Long Island, New York! Tis true. According to Elizabeth Keyster in the October 1991 edition of Hollins Critic, " An Anglo-American, Burnett came to the United States while in her teens, returned to England for nine years in midlife, then spent the remainder of her life in this country." By this point in her career she’d already written Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess so her reputation was secure.  According to Anita Silvey’s 100 Best Books for Children, "First serialized in American Magazine, the story appeared under the title ‘Mistress Mary.’  It sold out its first edition even before publication and was widely read by adult fans of Burnett’s earlier books, but it achieved little notoriety during the author’s life."  Instead, she got far more praise for Fauntleroy of all things.  Says Silvey, "In fact, her New York Times obituary never even mentioned The Secret Garden."  Sacrilege!

Burnett reportedly loved anything by the Bronte sisters. This sort of makes perfect sense when you think of the title’s gothic underpinnings.  And in the book Frances Hodgson Burnett by Phyllis Bixler, the author makes a series of rather good points about the book.  For example: "In Little Lord Fauntleroy, she had portrayed a child reunited with his estranged family, and in Little Princess, she had portrayed an orphan who finds a new family. The Secret Garden has both." And later, "In Mary Lennox, Burnett created her most complex fictional child."

But it is A.S. Byatt who really pinpoints a lot of what I love about it. "Burnett’s children’s books have lasted because of an unfakeable quality of precise realism and observation–combined with an equally unfakeable hopefulness about the human condition. Burnett once observed that children like things–that was why she kept her doll’s houses full of delicate models of life. That was why she took such care with the details both of Sara Crewe’s possessions as a little rich girl (which another Victorian moralist might have sneered at) and with the things that she has, and the food that she has not, in her days as a slave in the attic. Little Lord Fauntleroy, a not-rich American boy suddenly confronted with English aristocratic possessions and customs, retains a grave curiosity about all this as well as a belief that people can be reasonable and kind which, despite the sentiment, are both oddly convincing. There is none of the sentimentality in Dickon, the country boy who understands creatures and plants, that there is in J M Barrie’s eternal children."

Our own National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature Katherine Paterson is a fan of the book as well.  In fact, in Silvey’s Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Children’s Book, Paterson chose this title as her favorite.  She writes, "In The Sense of Wonder, Rachel Carson says: ‘If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years, their sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.’ This was surely the gift The Secret Garden gave to me as a child, and although I’m no good fairy, it is a gift I seek to share."

Not that you can’t find objections to it, of course.  In the aforementioned book Frances Hodgson Burnett by Phyllis Bixler, "The Secret Garden has its flaws. Some readers might object to its sentimental idealization of poverty and the class system in its portrayal of the Sowerby family and the gardener, Ben Weatherstaff. In a brief, uncharacteristic foray into fantasy, Burnett shows events in the garden through the consciousness of the robin and his mate, and she approaches her frequent silliness when personifying animals. Near the end, Burnett mechanically and unnecessarily interprets the garden as a symbol for the human mind; this discussion of the mind’s power—the danger of locking it up, the necessity of weeding out bad thoughts to plant good ones—is undoubtedly the reason some contemporary readers considered The Secret Garden a Christian Science book."  Never really thought of it that way before.  And that doesn’t even get into how colonialism has been viewed.  Indeed, anyone who wants to know more about this might do well to check out the article "The Mem Sahib, the Worthy, the Rajah and His Minions: Some Reflections on the Class Politics of The Secret Garden" by Jerry Phillips in the December 1993 edition of Lion and the Unicorn.

There ain’t no nerd like a showtune nerd, and I count myself amongst them. And yes, I owned a cassette tape of the Broadway musical production of A Secret Garden. And YES I could sing "A Bit of Earth" to you if called upon to do so. And yes yes yes, there were plenty of folks who realized that the song "Lilly’s Eyes" applies bee-autifully to the Harry Potter series. Oh yes it does indeed.

In the course of my research into this book I hit upon one fact that stopped me cold.  A.S. Byatt writes in the April 19, 2004 edition of New Statesman, "Gretchen Gerzina begins her biography of Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1925 with the commissioning of a fountain in New York’s Central Park depicting Mary and Dickon from The Secret Garden."  Wait . . . what?  I’ve been in Central Park many many times over the years.  I know about the two Alice in Wonderland statues and the Hans Christian Andersen.  I even know about poor Balto, so how is it possible that there’s a Secret Garden statue I’ve never heard of before?  Well, I don’t know how I missed it but there most certainly IS a Burnett Memorial Fountain in the Conservatory Garden area.  According to Central Park, when Frances Hodgson Burnett died in 1924 people decided to honor her memory with a storytelling area in Central Park.  Too bad we use Mr. Andersen instead these days (NYPL librarians tell stories in front of his statue all summer long).  The theory is that these two folks in the Burnett Fountain are Dickon and Mary.  I don’t quite buy it.  Not unless Mary suddenly decided the whole wearing clothes thing was getting old.

Literary Digest said of the book at the time, "To describe adequately the delights of the story would deprive the reader of the joy and pleasure of first discovery–the sensation of surprise."

And now, the many faces of Mary.

My personal favorite, in spite of the fact that they got her hair color dead wrong.

Now there have been lots of filmed versions of the movie out there.  If you’d like a quickie glance at them, some enterprising soul posted the same scene of Mary meeting Dickon from the 1949, 1975, 1987, and 1993 versions respectively.  In my personal opinion, the 1987 Hallmark version was the most regrettable of the adaptations.  Any cinematic version that ends with Mary coming back after WWI to marry her cousin Colin and lament that Dickon got shot in a trench somewhere . . . *shudder*

I always thought that the 1975 BBC production, while it has perhaps one of the worst first scenes, had the best looking Mary hands down.

There was also this 1993 version which I never seen.  One wonders if that fire briefly glimpsed was a huge plot point.

In the event that you would like to have your eyes roll entirely backwards within your own skull, I recommend you watch this trailer for Back to the Secret Garden.  Americans and winking rabbits.  It doesn’t get much better/worse than this.

NOTE: In case the comments confuse you, this post originally appeared on April Fool’s Day with a faux appearance of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas as Book #8.  I’ve taken that part of the post down now that the day has passed.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Lisa Yee says

    You! You really had me going there for a while and I was in shock!!!!

  2. Colleen Mondor says

    Oh Betsy – my heart actually stopped when I saw that awful book!!! It took me a minute to enjoy “Secret Garden” because I was still reeling from the initial horror!

  3. First my Google page says “Topeka” instead of google, then I saw that book( !?! exclamations of horror !!!- is that the book I think it is!?! ) and I thought I must still be in bed having a nightmare. Good one.
    As my heart rate approaches normal, I say ” Yeah, finally Secret Garden.”

  4. Monica Edinger says

    While I wasn’t thinking of Colin in striped pajamas I guess it is possible. And I’m guessing the German translation uses Bruno for Dickon?

  5. You scared me to death.

  6. Jim (Teacherninja) says

    Good one.

    And, Betsy, so sorry to be a spoiler, but I went ahead and posted the top three picks on my site just to get a jump on you. No hard feelings.

  7. Paige Y. says

    I said out loud, “you’ve got to be kidding me!.” And then I realized that yes, you were. Thank God.

    The Secret Garden was my number one pick, and i was hoping it would get to at least number three on the list. My family never gardened when I was little, but this book made me long for one and it’s the reason I garden today. I loved reading it out loud to my children and hope to one day read it out loud to my future grandchildren.

  8. Brenda (proseandkahn) says

    Ya got me! My reader shows just the first few words of your posts and in the poll, it’s the title. So, I was saying, “OMG,” as I clicked to read on with my jaw on the floor. Good one. I’m glad that I chose to scroll down to the comments. I will now return to our regularly scheduled broadcast and read about The Secret Garden less traumatized.

  9. Could you hear me screaming Noooooo! all the way from Connecticut? April Fool, indeed! My heart rate only returned to normal when I realized that the true #8 was the first of My top ten to make it into the Big Top Ten. Hurray for Mary and crew! And if you read David Brooks column in the NYT on Monday, you know that bit about depicting people with less money and power as happier is right on target with current research, rather than being a ‘class’ issue … Burnett was 100 years ahead of her time.

  10. Jennifer in GA says

    Well played, Betsy Bird, well played.

  11. Virginia says

    Haha! I’m not familiar with The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas — what’s wrong with it?

  12. I’ll leave you that delight to discover for yourself. And Jim, those are hilarious. I doff my cap to you, sir.

  13. Oh my god, I nearly had a heart attack. I really did yelp “WHAT??” out loud.

    You, madame, are a little bit evil.

  14. Yup. But I’ve nothing on Sieruta:

    He’s the master.

  15. Cough up the real book!

  16. Ok, I didn’t even wait to read anything or for the other pictures to load before I made my demand. I will now go up to the near top of the post and enjoy my morning.

  17. Okay, while The Boy in the Striped Pajamas may be a good book, is not a children’s book – it is a YA book. But yay on the Secret Garden – I had that for Book #8 on my list.

  18. Next time at least put up a children’s title – like a Horrid Henry book or Junie B. Jones, etc. – that would be more believeable!

  19. Constance says

    Nice one! My first shamed thought was that someone had sent me an ARC of Striped Pajamas and it is still lying near where I opened it – ooops. Sounds like it can stay there. The Secret Garden is one of those books you remember exactly when you read. For me, I received the Tasha Tudor hardcover on my 9th birthday and read it that week. But I definitely like A Little Princess best and that was reread much more frequently. I think I skimmed Little Lord Fauntleroy once, regretting I could not get into it (although I like the Hector Henri Malot books which are very similar) but I did enjoy (and own) a biography about FHB.

  20. Oh, goodness. I made a horrible smothered-gasp sound so as not to wake my sister in the next room; now I can’t wait for her to wake up and see this.

    What I really love is Noel Streatfeild’s book about a girl starring in a movie version of The Secret Garden, Movie Shoes (American title)/The Painted Garden (original British title).

  21. rockinlibrarian says

    Because I don’t know enough about Striped Pajamas to be outright horrified, I was merely confused and slightly sad for a moment…

    …but with yet ANOTHER of my childhood and very most favorites on the list today, two in a row, it might as well still be my birthday!

  22. Oh, you got me good.

  23. rockinlibrarian says

    Constance, my copy is a Tasha Tudor hardcover I got for my 9th birthday, too! But I first read it (or rather, my mom read it to me) before then.

  24. I was also fooled. I didn’t hate Boy in the Striped PJs, but I was VERY shocked to see it in the top ten!

    I haven’t read this one yet. Its been on my to-read list forever, though. I think I’ll be making it more of a priority now.

    So far I’m three for three for the top ten, just not in the right order. Yipee!

  25. HulaHoopes says

    Holy Moley you had me going!!!!!!!! Thanks for a GREAT laugh this morning!!!! πŸ˜‰

  26. Kara Dean says

    You rascal!

    As for the actual top 8 selection….. *love.*

  27. lisachellman says

    Brilliant April Fool’s joke. I saw the headline in Google Reader and said, “WHAT.” Then remembered the date. πŸ™‚ I have slightly more fondness for A Little Princess than The Secret Garden, but it’s way up there, too. For years, my mother read to me and then I reread to myself our bruised and battered copy from 1911 with gorgeous full-color plates. I’ve finally gotten a Tasha Tudor edition so I don’t have to be quite as careful when I read it. πŸ™‚

  28. The Horrible Hallmark had Colin Firth? (I couldn’t even watch the clip long enough for him to show up — that was the one with the garish fake flowers (and not many of them) for a garden. Accccch.

    And why is it so impossible to get Dickon right? They never come close…

  29. MotherReader says

    Excellent. You totally got me shouting “No way!” before I scrolled down in relief. Thanks for the laugh.

  30. Well-played. I (loudly) said, “WHAT!?” and got some strange looks…

    You totally had me.

  31. Jennifer Schultz says

    Oh, MAN! You got me! I started to think that maybe a class had recently read it and voted for it! Well done, my friend.

  32. Mandaladreamer says

    Whew. I haven’t recovered enough yet to see what Peter has in store. I was ready for him, but not for this!
    And yes, Painted Garden by Streatfeild really was great, wasn’t it? I’m sure I read that one many more times than Secret Garden, even though this was way up there on my list.

  33. Oh my — you got me, Betsy Bird! My son had to read STRIPED PYJAMAS in eighth grade and I had visions of a class of middle school kids stuffing the ballot! I was so relieved to see it was a joke that I wasn’t too disappointed to see my top pick at number 8. I’m still trying to block the memory of Dickon dying in a trench from that TV movie!

  34. brenda Ferber says

    You got me! Good one, Betsy!

  35. MelissaZD says

    *climbs weakly back to keyboard from kitchen floor*

    Well, THAT woke me up! And Yay! I am 3 for 3 for Top Ten titles, but am so grateful I got the order wrong yesterday, I seriously would be too stressed out to enjoy the next week and a half if I didn’t!

  36. Oh, you evil, evil, woman. I mean that in the best way, of course.

  37. I can’t remember when I have been so well and truly “got” on April Fool’s Day….well done!

    Happy to see the real titles appearance in the top ten!

  38. Fuse#8, if I’m rushed to a hospital today for stroke, I blame it on you! But then I thought for a moment that you didn’t have the real #8 there and that we’d have to wait ANOTHER day! That was a much worse scare. Luckily I love the Secret Garden (even though I hate gardening) so you are forgiven. You’re good! I haven’t been caught that badly for years.

  39. Well, I’ve never heard of the April Fool title, but my jaw dropped anyway. Actually my first thought was “well, I wondered if some book I’d never heard of would make the top 10…”

    So glad to see the real book. πŸ™‚ And yes, I’m three for three as well, though all out of order. I had Secret Garden at number five.

    Seven to go…getting curiouser and curiouser…

  40. marjorie says

    you WENCH. i almost DIED.

  41. Kate Coombs says

    A few minutes before I looked at Battle of the Kids’ Books and then your post, I thought, “What if someone does an April Fool’s post?” And then I thought “Nah,” and forgot about that just long enough to catch my breath at the sight of BITSP and suspect, like Kathy J, a ballot-stuffing incident, perhaps involving poor old Boyne’s mother and grandmothers and aunts… Ahem. We are not amused! (Okay, well, maybe a little.) So lovely to see The Secret Garden!

  42. KHazelrigg says

    Holy. Cow. Here I sat at my desk thinking about how all these kids at school always try to trick me for April Fools’ Day and never succeed, when I opened your page and said, out loud, “NO STINKIN’ WAY, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?”

    Dang it. I didn’t even make it to 9:00 before someone got me. Well, better you than a 4th grader.

  43. kinnick72 says

    You totally hooked me… I was like, “what, What, WHAT?!?!?!?” Very funny. πŸ˜‰ I’m really enjoying your list. When you’re all done, could you print a compiled list. I’d like to have it as a link on my blog. Just another source to go to when my students “don’t have anything to read.” Thanks!

  44. Boy was I shocked and dismayed-then I clicked to read the full post and found my beloved Secret Garden phew! Well done.

  45. Oh, I am definitely doing a compiled list when I am done. Don’t even fret it.

  46. klonghall says

    Yep, you got me, too. Well played, Betsy Bird, well played.

    ‘Glad to know I’m not the only showtune nerd here. I had been singing “A Bit of Earth” in my head the whole time I read the post. I LOVED that cassette tape that I nearly wore out in my Senior year of college (circa 1993). I always have “Lily’s Eyes” running through my head when I read discussion of Harry’s eyes, too, in the HP books. Someone really needs to do a revival of that musical…
    As for the actual book, I was surprised when my 7th grade son picked it up to read for pleasure back in the fall. I was interested to see if it had “boy appeal” in 2009. I’m pleased to report that he loved the book for all the right reasons.

  47. Chrisin NY says

    I admit that the “Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” reference went over my head. I was pretty sure it was not right but did not understand the horror as I was not familiar with the story- so I Topeka’ed it. πŸ˜‰

  48. Hahahahaha!!!

    Good one – if I hadn’t woke up to “topeka google” I might not have recovered as quickly, but as it is you had me for a few good completely astonished seconds! My mouth was hanging open and cereal was about to fall out…

  49. If I wasn’t awake when I opened my browser, I’m all kinds of awake now. And I’ve scared my cat to death by shrieking, like so many others, ‘WHAT?!?’.

    I’m thrilled to see “The Secret Garden”, finally. Along with “Little Women”, “The Hobbit”, “The Last Unicorn” and the Oz books, this book made my childhood. I could probably recite it if I had to.

    The 1993/Agnieszka Holland film, despite that terrible trailer, is not bad.

  50. Miss Julie says

    Nice one. I actually yelled at the computer before I scrolled down.

  51. Terri Street says

    Great April Fool’s gag! I almost choked when I saw that awful, unbelievable title at #8!

  52. Good one!

    It looks like the top ten is going to be full of those classics that I hated, well except for Phantom Tollbooth! The classics I loved were mostly in the 11 – 20 range. I should have sent in my top ten prediction though. So far I’ve got 3 titles right. Or did order matter? If so, it doesn’t matter, my order is messed up.

  53. Good one, Betsy!
    I was mentally composing a comment along the lines of, Boy, I sure didn’t see THAT one coming!
    Nice! This time I guessed the Title at the right spot — #8.
    Your April Fools joke was brilliant. I deserved something like that after waking up my son and telling him to get ready to catch the bus. (It’s Spring Break.) Though if I were really mean, I would have actually let him get up and dressed and eat breakfast. I relented too soon. (I loved the way you put the points and the quotations just as usual!)

  54. Tricia (Miss Rumphius) says

    Yes, I actually fell for this. I saw the title in my RSS feed and have now shocked the entire hall with my shout of HOLY SH*T! (And I rarely use any word stronger than crap.)

    I’m so glad to see the real number 8 on the list.

  55. RM1(SS) (ret) says

    Nice April Fool’s joke, Betsy – I almost fell out of my chair when I saw that!

    I’ve never even been tempted to read this, or to see any of the film versions, but based on its reputation I had it correctly at #8. I suppose now I will have to read it….

    My favourite covers are the green one with the Tasha Tudor illustrations and the one illustrated by Inga Moore (near the bottom of the list); the one I’m most familiar with is the Graham Rust.

  56. RM1(SS) (ret) says

    Actually, it could have been worse. You could have used Beautiful Joe….

  57. David Ziegler says

    Good one, Betsy, although Cherry Ames, Student Nurse would have really produced a coronary for me.

    Although I didn’t originally pick this, I assumed The Secret Garden would be in the final Top Ten. Now I’m wondering if any fairly recent books will appear in the remaining top seven…

  58. Actually, Diary of a Wimpy Kid would have been really believable #8 as an April Fool’s title choice. We can’t keep them on the shelves, though most teachers and librarians do not see the literary merit!

  59. Wow, that was a pretty good April Fool’s joke. I was just astonished.

    I had never thought of HP’s Lily in the musical’s Lily’s Eyes. Wow.

    The Hallmark version of Secret Garden was made in 1987. There are links on youtube. I thought it was pretty good, myself.

  60. Fortunately my mantra last night as I fell asleep was “tomorrow is April Fool’s” so I wasn’t unprepared, but I did manage a gasp of shock before remembering. Also, I’m so happy to see Anne and The Secret Garden back to back in the top 10!

  61. A compiled list will be nice, but I hope you’re planning to publish a book of this together with the picture book poll!

  62. Don’t DO that to me! Wow, even though I’d just finished reading about Google becoming Topeka, I was still completely taken in. Hurray for Secret Garden though! If I hadn’t gotten #10 wrong I’d be doing pretty well!

  63. Brilliantly conceived and executed! I loved how I had to start scrolling to find the surprise. Nothing gave it away on that first screen shot (other than the obvious “Huh?!”)

  64. You got me. That was a terrible (and very effective) joke!
    LIke all the others, what a huge wave of relief with The Secret Garden!

  65. Jennifer Schultz says

    I love the OBC of The Secret Garden too. I do prefer the London “High on a Hill” orchestrations, though (but that’s about it).

    I had the green/Tasha Tudor cover. It’s not my favorite FHB book; that would be A Little Princess. But it’s one I’ve reread several times (and I’m not a big rereader).

  66. Oh, thank goodness. I was so scared. Phew! Okay, little heart, calm down.

    Well played, Betsy.

  67. My Boaz's Ruth says

    Angela; She probably didn’t want to use a “joke book” that could conceivably actually show up in the poll.

    I don’t WANT To see Wimpy Kid, but I’m not going to be surprised by it either (though I’ll cry for it to be more popular than so many of the titles we’ve already seen).

  68. Not at all funny! Shame on you! says

    I have been speaking with a fellow librarian — who happens to be Jewish –about this offensive post! The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is one of the very best books I’ve ever read. Indeed, it is worth your while to read. To my mind, it is one of the best examples of Holocaust literature you’re likely to find. Make a mockery of Elie Wiesel’s Night while you’re at it!

  69. I have indeed read the book. I respectfully disagree that this is one of the best works of Holocaust fiction for children.

    In this particular case I make no statements about the book aside from the fact that it could not have appeared so high on a public poll. However, if you would like to see some constructive criticism of the book, I recommend that you check out the Educating Alice post on a related topic here at as well as a very effective criticism that mimics my own thoughts on the novel here:

  70. Nell Colburn says

    AAAARGH…got me, too! But I’m home sick and don’t even know what day it is… I have to say, though, that I thought your fake comments were a hoot, and just right! Rock on, fuse…..

  71. Last night I had a feeling a fake title would appear this morning but I guessed it would be newbery winner Smokey, which would have upset the PC freaks and further incited those horse book lovers.

    But this one was even funnier. Thanks Fuse!

  72. Jenn (From the Mixed-Up Files) says

    Oh, that was great! Totally had me going for a minute there. I was all set to comment “I guess this is the Millions of Cats of the list for me”, but I was also baffled because while I haven’t read the book I’d been under the impression many readers have been passionately opposed to it. (And judging by the reactions some were.) The most amusing part of all to me is scrolling through the comments and imagining all of us sitting by ourselves at our computers, eagerly clicking to see today’s title revealed and then gasping/shrieking/fainting in horror/shock/disgust/confusion/etc.

    So far I’ve gotten the # 8-10 titles correct, just none in the correct spot, dagnabbit.

  73. I thought this might be one of the teeth-itching book mentioned earlier.

  74. louise in Australia says

    I was surprised to see The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas at #8. But I must be in a minority here- I loved it, found it a compulsive page turner. I’m surprised that so many people really didn’t like it. I was still surprised by it’s inclusion at #8, but not appalled because I did like the book. I’ve enjoyed The Secret Garden as well although I read it as an adult, it’s not a sentimental favourite from my childhood.

  75. Yuyi Morales says

    Oh, I am so thinking how I am going to get you back!

  76. Fuse #8, I’ll tell you I’m Jewish and I was terribly relieved to see that Striped Pajamas was a gag. 1) It is YA. 2) I am really tired of Holocaust fiction because often the quality is not all that good and because authors are trying so hard to find a new angle to use in this genre. They are beginning to be an easy way to sell a book, because no one is going to dare criticize the book too vehemently. It just isn’t PC. I have not read this title, but as I recall, the reviews indicated it as good to extremely good but not enough to rise to the top of a list like this! I doubt highly that this title can stand up to Night. That would be a horribly difficult standard and unfair to Striped Pajamas. To the offended poster: one reason I’m so tired of Holocaust lit is that we are drowning our youth in this nightmare. I went through a period as a teen where I decided you simply couldn’t trust most non Jews as a result of reading too many Holocaust novels and nonfiction. That is a terrible thing to have happen to a child. Give Fuse a break, this was FUNNY. Also, the woman lives in NYC. You really think she wouldn’t have been lynched by numerous Jewish coworkers by now if they found it offensive????

  77. Best April Fool’s Joke ever! You totally got me! My jaw was on the floor! I’m actually currently reading The Devil’s Arithmetic which I hear is pretty well regarded children’s holocaust lit. Anyway, thanks for the laugh!

  78. Scrumptious says

    I love The Secret Garden. It is the book that has endured the longest for me, and the one I have read more times than any other.

    I think in my heart of hearts I always loved A Little Princess a teensy bit more, but even as a child I knew it was far too precious and cutesie, and that The Secret Garden was a better choice for “favorite book.” And so it became my favorite book!

    Thanks for all the extra info – as always it’s so illuminating to have biographical information and interesting analysis of different aspects of the book. I especially value this for childhood favorites, which I still read in “child’s mind” without class or race awareness, so it’s so helpful to get to read these adult perspectives, too.

  79. Please Fuse, PLEASE make these two polls into a book! There is a reason so many of us got hooked by this poll, and the book would be wonderful in a kids’ lit class in library school or in a kids lit class in general! I absolutely swear I’ll buy it! I realize that some of what I loved won’t translate like the video of Michael Rosen in the picture book poll, but still, the rest is well worth reading. And you can have links to the poll online for the videos.

  80. The thought is alluring.

  81. Els Kushner says

    And maybe you could include some selected comments, too. That would be cool.

    I’d totally buy it.

  82. Yes, do keep the comments! What better way to convey to people why the book is good than people’s enthusiastic comments. Not all of them, but enough to give a representative reaction to a title.

  83. Libby Gruner says

    I was so mad I didn’t even click through, so it took me ’til today to find out I actually had a pick in the top 10! Even though I, like a few others, really liked Streatfeild’s take off better, this one was and still is a great one. Whew!

  84. Can you pretty please link to your April Fools post so those of us who were not on the computer on the 1st can see it?

  85. Alas, I deleted it entirely. April Fool’s posts don’t age all that well.

  86. sarah dotts barley says

    i love the secret garden musical, too (almost as much as i love the book. but not quite). when i saw it for the first time when i was 8 or 9, i went around calling everything “wick.” in fact, on a rare car trip just this last weekend, i serenaded my driving companion with each and every song, including harmonies. i do those well, especially the ones with archibald craven.


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