The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
A book sure to create some shivers, this is a thrilling gothic horror book for children. Molly and Kip are two Irish children abandoned by their parents as their family fled to England due to the Great Irish Potato Famine. No one will hire Molly as a servant until a man hires them to work for his family at their isolated and decrepit mansion. It quickly becomes apparent that things are not what they seem in this family. Molly finds a painting done of the family a year earlier, and they have changed considerably with their hair turning black and dull to their skin losing all color. Perhaps it has something to do with the locked green door in the house, a door that Molly yearns to find out what is behind. But opening that door unleashes a terrible force, one that answers your wants but destroys you in the process. How can two children stand up to a centuries old curse?
Auxier’s storytelling skill is incredible. He weaves a world of darkness, creeping misery and despair so cleverly that readers will feel the chill on their skin before it reaches their thoughts. The children are steadily drawn into the strangeness surrounding the house and family, succumbing to the temptation of safety, the illusion of a home, and not seeing the proof around them of what is happening. For the reader, this is a book that steadily builds and builds as the tension mounts and the nights get more frightening. It is a wonderfully creepy read, one that simply can’t be put down.
The themes of the book are beautifully crafted. The book speaks to the importance of love and family, but even more so it is about what happens when greed becomes consuming, literally. It also is about the power of storytelling and stories, the way that they can teach, terrify and soothe. And finally about the terror when a story comes to life right in front of you.
An extraordinary horror novel for children, this book will be enjoyed by young readers but maybe not right before bed. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet.