cover image The Night Garden

The Night Garden

Polly Horvath. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-30452-2

The witty voice of 12-year-old Franny drives this historical adventure, set during WWII in the coastal town of Sooke in British Columbia. Adopted through a “series of mistakes,” aspiring writer Franny lives with a sculptor named Sina and her husband, Old Tom, in a grand, rambling house with extensive gardens (including the off-limits “night garden,” which possesses magical properties) until the war intrudes on their peace. When a dramatically weepy neighbor, nicknamed Crying Alice, needs someone to care for her children, Sina takes in the energetic Winifred, Wilfred, and Zebediah, then adds a supremely untalented and grubby neighbor, Gladys, as a cook. Amid the chaos of the household, Sina sees UFOs, a hermit makes himself useful, a mystery involving Crying Alice’s husband and a spy plane emerges, and the night garden reveals its powers of wish fulfillment. While the narrative sometimes gets lost in complicated plot turns, the quirky characters and Franny’s dry-humored narration stand out as Horvath invokes classic literary elements of orphans, secret gardens, and found families. Ages 9–12. Agent: Marie Campbell, Transatlantic Literary. (Sept.)