So I've just emerged from the fog surrounding graduate school for a two week period, just long enough to delve into some of the wonderful arcs I got at the ALA Midwinter Conference. I pulled THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathan Auxier out of the pile first. Lately, this author has done a very thoughtful series of blog articles on what to do after the publishing contract comes. If you're a writer, check out the series here for thoughts like the difference between Book Festivals and Bookstore events, or how to build an online presence.
But back to the book. The Night Gardener has a great classy yet shivery vibe to it. Molly clings to stories to make her way in the world. Alone with her brother in a dickens-like landscape, she and her brother travel to a mysterious house deep in the woods to work as servants. Getting there is tough. All the townspeople avoid the house, whispering tales of a family that disappeared in the night.
But Molly has no choice. She must rely on the power of stories to pull her closer to the truth. But is she willing to face her own truth?
In the words of Tim O'Brien in THE THINGS THEY CARRIED, “sometimes story truth is truer than happening truth.” I've always liked the depth of that quote, and I think that Auxier fully explored story truth in The Night Gardener. I'd recommend this book to kids who've loved the gothic backdrop of Joan Aiken's THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE or Cathrynne M. Valente's lyrical narration in THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED THE WORLD (and following sequels.)
One warning: If you are like me, and have to leave the room during certain parts of the Corpse Bride, do not read this book after dark. I read into the night because I couldn't put this book down. By the time I finished, it was late and I was in a dark apartment with the odd sensation that there was some kind of sentient zombie Abraham Lincoln looking over my shoulder. I'm just saying... leave a light on. Either way, THE NIGHT GARDENER is not to be missed.