Sunday, 4 October 2015

Children's Classics: Holly Webb on Return to the Secret Garden

It's been far too long since I had anyone on here for my Classic Children's feature, so I'm really excited to have Holly Webb on the blog today talking about Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, to celebrate her new sequel to the book, Return to the Secret Garden (published by Scholastic.)

I first thought of writing a sequel to The Secret Garden years ago – after a wonderful conversation with my editor about our favourite children’s books. It’s a wonderful subject – full of “Do you remember?” and “What about this one?” and “Oh, did you ever read that?” Somehow it’s even more exciting than discussing what you’re reading right now, but it’s hard to pin down why. The glory of rediscovering something that you loved first as a child? Perhaps we do identify more fully with books and characters we first meet when we’re younger.

I read a lot growing up – there were a lot of books in the house, plus there was a fairly eclectic set of bookshelves at school. I got banned from taking books outside after leaving When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit lying around in the playground… Looking back, many of the books I read were “classics”, perhaps because my parents shared the books they’d loved too. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, Arthur Ransome, The Treasure Seekers and The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, Little Women (and all the sequels!), Anne of Green Gables (likewise, and I sympathise hugely with any child who loves a series, that wonderful feeling that there’s more). The Wind in the Willows – especially the picnic basket list which I learned off by heart just because I loved it so much (I always wanted to know, what exactly was potted meat?) But I particularly loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and A Little Princess (Sara to me still looks like Margery Gill’s illustrations, thin-faced and dark-haired). For me, these books were favourites because of their heroines. Sara was almost but not quite annoyingly perfect, and Mary was so imperfect that she was gripping. But then who wouldn’t be horrible, with Mary’s loveless upbringing? 

I adored the setting of The Secret Garden too – the garden was nearly as special as the girl. The idea of a private, secret, near-magical space was enchanting. It felt like an amazing gift to write my own story about Misselthwaite, and to take another child into the garden.

It's 1939 and a group of children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall. Emmie is far from happy to have been separated from her cat and sent to a huge old mansion. But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house - a boy crying at night, a diary written by a girl named Mary and a garden. A very secret garden...

Information about the book
Title: Return to the Secret Garden
Author: Holly Webb
Release Date: October 1st 2015
Genre: Historical MG
Publisher: Scholastic UK
Format: Hardback and E-book

Giveaway Information
Scholastic are giving away a copy of The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett and a copy of Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb to one lucky blog tour follower! [UK AND IRL ONLY]
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule
Monday 5th October

Tuesday 6th October

Wednesday 7th October

Thursday 8th October

Friday 9th October

Saturday 10th October

Sunday 11th October


  1. An old favourite.....hope (and trust) Webb will do it justice!!

  2. 'A Little Princess' was - and still is - one of my favourite books and Holly is so right about Sara Crewe being perfectly embodied by the dark-haired, spiky and slightly sad girl on the vintage Puffin book cover by Margery Gill. Looking forward to Holly's book.