The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

The Night GardenerMolly and Kip are a brother and sister who have had a hard go of it in life. Ireland in the 1850s is a difficult place for children – famine and hard work are all they’ve ever known. In search of a better life, they’ve come to work for the Windsors in rural England, but nearly everyone in the surrounding village is telling them to turn away from the family’s decaying home on a secluded island whose centerpiece is an enormous, gnarling tree. But what else are two youngsters without a penny or a caring adult in the world to do? There are whispers that the Windsor home and family are cursed, which Molly dismisses as hogwash. Surely curses are the stuff of stories – as an amateur storyteller, she ought to know. But then she notices that the Windsors, from nervous patriarch Bertram to little Penny, grow paler and weaker with each passing day. There are the muddy bootprints that appear every single morning, the bad dreams that torment Molly night after night. And then there’s the tall, skinny man in the top hat that Kip says he’s seen outside…

I love children’s horror because it’s less about grisly details and more about haunting atmospheres and moral themes. If that’s your bag, then The Night Gardener is as fine an example as you’ll ever find. Themes of human greed and discontent permeate the story, and it’s just as engaging a read for adults as it is for children. Kip and Molly are brave and feisty in distinct ways, and the Windsor family is easy to sympathize with even as their problems are mainly their own fault. I loved the slow burn and the dramatic reveal of each element of the story, and Auxier‘s pacing couldn’t be better – I was on the edge of my seat during the action scenes. Are you ready to be creeped out, or to creep out your children? The Night Gardener is worth a look.

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