Review: The Secret Garden on 81st Street

Join me on a journey through one of my favorite gardens in this updated version of a timeless story with TBR and Beyond Book Reviews! Get the full tour schedule here!

About the Book

The Secret Garden with a twist: in this follow-up to Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, this full-color graphic novel moves Mary Lennox to a New York City brownstone, where she and her very first group of friends restore an abandoned rooftop garden…and her uncle’s heart.

Mary Lennox is a loner living in Silicon Valley. With her parents always working, video game and tech become her main source of entertainment and “friends.” When her parents pass away in a tragic accident, she moves to New York City to live with her uncle who she barely knows, and to her surprise, keeps a gadget free home.

Looking for comfort in this strange, new reality, Mary discovers an abandoned rooftop garden and an even bigger secret…her cousin who suffers from anxiety. With the help of her new friends, Colin and Dickon, Mary works to restore the garden to its former glory while also learning to grieve, build real friendships, and grow.

My Review

To say I adored this retelling would be putting it lightly. The Secret Garden has been a favorite story of mine for a long time, and this updated version retails all the joy, heartache, mystery, and love of the original, while giving it a modern twist. Our updated Mary is living a life of detached luxury before her parents are killed in a tragic accident and she’s moved to New York City to live with her mysterious uncle Archie. Instead of Archie, she meets the people who surround his life – his housekeeper, his cook, the mysterious Ben and Dickon, and eventually her cousin, Colin. Together, they discover the garden on the roof, abandoned since the death of Archie’s husband, a relic of a time of love and hope that doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

Author Ivy Noelle Weir updated this story with more than just a location, eliminating some of the darker parts of the original story, giving Archie a husband instead of a wife, and Colin now has anxiety instead of his hunched back and other illnesses. All of these changes help streamline the story and make it more accessible to younger readers – the people who are the target audience for this book. The illustrations are simple but vibrant, and it’s a truly beautiful way to tell the story of a forgotten garden brought back by love.

4.5/5 stars!

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About the Author

Ivy Noelle Weir is a writer of comics and prose. She is the co-creator of the Dwayne McDuffie Award-winning graphic novel Archival Quality (Oni Press), the upcoming The Secret Garden on 81st Street (Little, Brown for Young Readers), and her writing has appeared in anthologies such as Princeless: Girls Rock (Action Lab Entertainment) and Dead Beats (A Wave Blue World). She lives in the greater Boston area with her husband and their two tiny, weird dogs.

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