Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Forgotten Room by Stacie Morrell

Classics Retold is a project created by Alison @ The Cheap Reader and hosted by a number of bloggers. This project encompasses reviews of some original classics, as well as their adaptations, retellings, and/or sequels. Click here for more details. The master post for Children’s Classic can also be found here.


Before I chose The Secret Garden as my classic, I tried to find if there were enough sequels or retellings of it that were written and published. I found a few sequels by different authors, but the one that attracted me the most and seemingly written closely to the classic was The Forgotten Room. I then bought a book at The Book Depository.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

The Forgotten Room cover

‘The Secret Garden’, written by Frances Hodgson Burnett and published in 1911, has been beloved by generations. Made into a stage play and numerous movies, this enchanting story remains a popular classic today.

‘The Forgotten Room’ begins a few months after the original concludes, continuing the stories of Mary, Colin, Dickon and the rest of the beloved characters from ‘The Secret Garden.’ This is the story of what happens next to the people of Misselthwaite Manor.

Mary finds another secret, learns more about herself her friends, gets a tutor, nearly succumbs to her parents’ fate, and faces a crucial decision or two. Written with the style and heart of the original.

When I got my hands on the paperback version of the book, I was surprised to notice it was printed differently from all the books I have. I immediately thought it could be a self-published work as evident in the font type and absence of page numbers. On the other hand, who cares? What matters is the content of the story, right?

The Secret Garden’s story continues in Stacie Morrell’s version. Familiar characters still play their parts in this book, but a newcomer will soon change everything. The setting of the story remains the same, taking place at Misselthwaite Manor. However, what sets this apart from the original classic is that while the classic focuses on the garden, The Forgotten Room reveals a specific room in the manor yet unfamiliar to the readers.

It’s the same as the garden that leads Mary to discover the room. Her curiosity to know as much as she can pushes her to snoop around. The room becomes her secret room, a place where she can call her own. And there, she finds comfort and attempts to know the story behind the room’s neglection.

I like how Stacie Morrell also explores the story centering a bit on parenthood and family. As mentioned in the classic, Uncle Craven soon decides that it’s already a good time to hire a governess to tutor Mary and Colin. This information is something new to Mary and Colin, hence their excitement and eagerness to meet their visitor. Along the way, after being introduced to their new governess, Miss Jane Edmonds, and spending time with her, Mary and Colin begin to feel things unusual to them. These feelings have caught them off guard due to the lack of maternal influence in their lives. Since then, they’ve sought Miss Edmond’s attention, unconsciously yearning for a maternal bond.

Despite having different authors, reading The Forgotten Room still feels like reading The Secret Garden. Stacie Morrell is able to capture the writing style of Frances Hodgson Burnett and added her own style to craft a possible phenomenon after the whole timeframe period of the classic. The characteristics of the characters are distinguishable and readers could see how Mary and Colin are both still children and yet slowly growing mature in terms of their choices and decisions. I especially love the part where the author considers Mary and Dickon’s friendship to grow into something more. The budding attraction they’ve shown to each other is both sweet and adorable. Moreover, readers could witness the softer side of Mrs. Medlock!

The downside of this book is that I feel the story lacks some things. Throughout the process of reading it, there are some questions that surfaced but are left unanswered. Character-building and story-building are not developed in depth as I hoped they would be. I also expected that the forgotten room would be the core of the story, but somehow, the topic is just brushed through. Nevertheless, I still enjoy reading it. The Forgotten Room is a short and easy read and is surely catered to younger readers.


The Secret Garden (Film Adaptation)

Classics Retold is a project created by Alison @ The Cheap Reader and hosted by a number of bloggers. This project encompasses reviews of some original classics, as well as their adaptations, retellings, and/or sequels. Click here for more details. The master post for Children’s Classic can also be found here.

classicsretoldThe Secret Garden animeDuring the early years of my life, while I spent most of my time watching too much cartoons as my source of entertainment, I was only familiar with the anime adaptation of The Secret Garden. I only found out recently that there was a film adaptation of it during the early 1990s. Therefore, intrigued to find out how it fared as an adaptation, I allotted some time to watch the film.

The Secret Garden movie posterIt’s quite fun to see how movies improve as time passes. With technological limitations, I actually did not expect much from the movie in terms of visual quality. As much as this holds true, it’s still impressive to see how the production team makes use of real places to shoot instead of merely utilizing the green screen technique.

I would say the same for the cast. It’s like everyone is perfect for his/her role. Surprisingly, Maggie Smith is in the movie as well! She’s like the Professor McGonagall of The Secret Garden. Her stern look and facial expressions definitely justify her role as Mrs. Medlock. Kate Maberly also perfectly captures the personality of Mary Lennox, from being snobbish and rude to being a happy and optimistic child. The same goes for Heydon Prowse playing as Colin, Andrew Knott as Dickon, and Laura Crossley as Martha.


While there are some details that are left out and changed in the movie, I still enjoyed the film adaptation. The message and theme of the story is still demonstrated suitably just as what the book intends to do. The setting is also so realistic and the props used express the antiqueness of the manor. And the garden! I love how the production team reveals the transformation of the garden from being neglected to something that is carefully tended – full of colorful flowers of every kind. This made me wish to visit a place like that someday, with the castle-like house and a secret garden.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Classics Retold is a project created by Alison @ The Cheap Reader and hosted by a number of bloggers. This project encompasses reviews of some original classics, as well as their adaptations, retellings, and/or sequels. Click here for more details.


The project is categorized into different genres and each genre is hosted by a specific blogger. I actually did a little research to make sure I meet the project’s requirements. After much deliberation, I decided to choose The Secret Garden. Alison @ The Cheap Reader is in charge of Children’s Classic, so that means I’m part of her group. The master post can be found here.

To be honest, I’m not a fan of classics. I can’t even remember the last time I read one. When I do read a classic, it’s for the school’s required reading and I find myself unable to finish the book. Good thing I joined this project. Classics Retold gives me another opportunity to appreciate classics and look at them at a different light. That’s exactly how I feel after reading The Secret Garden. My mom was actually the one who picked up this book during our visit to MV Logos Hope. If it weren’t for this project, I wouldn’t have read this book sooner.

The Secret Garden coverHere’s the summary from the back cover of the book:

Mary Lennox was horrid. Selfish and spoilt, she was sent to stay with her hunchback uncle in Yorkshire. She hated it.

But when she finds the way into a secret garden and begins to tend it, a change comes over her and her life. She meets and befriends a local boy, the talented Dickon, and comes across her sickly cousin Colin who had been kept hidden from her. Between them, the three children work astonishing magic in themselves and those around them.

The Secret Garden is one of the best-loved stories of all time.

Before, I’ve only known the gist of the story. I did watch its anime adaptation, but I’ve forgotten most of the details. At first I thought that The Secret Garden, being a children’s classic, would just be too simple to read and understand. Little did I know that this book would help me gain new insights and realize that the books you’ve read as an older, more mature being would inevitably have a different impact from the time you’ve read it as a child.

At the beginning, readers are already introduced to a conflict about Mary being a troublesome child in terms of her attitude. The book slowly unravels how Mary becomes an orphan and how she comes to live in her uncle’s place in Yorkshire. During her stay at the Misselthwaite Manor, the things and the people that surround the place begin to change her. I love the part where Mary and Martha get to compare their different cultures and learn to accept and respect each other. Most of all, I’m impressed with the simplicity of the author as she utilizes a mere secret garden that would transform not one, not two, but three important persons into better human beings.

Frances Hodgson Burnett is able to portray realistic characters – showing their imperfections as seen in her characterizations of Mary and Colin. These two children are at first seen to be unlikeable, but as the story progresses, they have given the readers the benefit of a doubt and eventually, they have proven to be so dynamic and will surprise the readers as they reach the end of the story. But it is not just the two of them that makes the story enjoyable to read. There’s Dickon, Martha, and especially their mother. These three have been so involved in the kids’ lives that they don’t deserve to be ignored easily.

The narration is just as impressive. The story is uniquely written and the way the author structures her sentences and chooses her words seem to produce some kind of magic that will make readers become so absorbed in the book. It’s both poetic and insightful. She also succeeds in getting into the minds of all the characters and animals and reveals their personalities and feelings. The story just flows naturally with all the vivid and detailed descriptions. And while the book teaches the readers some lessons, it doesn’t sound too preachy. The rawness, innocence, and honesty of the children just make this book even more enjoyable to read.

The use of symbolism is also evident in the story. The Secret Garden is more than just the secret garden. The garden becomes a tool which unexpectedly intertwines the lives of the protagonists. It also serves as a bridge to form a connection between simple curiosities to more meaningful in-depth thoughts. This can be seen in their understanding of Magic in a form of a higher spiritual being at work in their lives as well as in the garden. The themes that surround this book are definitely worth pondering for. It’s not just about being healthy and playing outdoors, but it also boils down to being an optimist rather than a pessimist.

Overall, I’d have to say, this book leaves me with valuable lessons that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I truly enjoyed reading it from beginning until the end. I never expected myself to like this book so much. I’m glad I’ve chosen this classic. I recommend this to both the young and old.