Mary Lennox, an ornery, unlikable child, is sent to live with her uncle, Mr. Craven, in Misselthwaite Manor. She is placed under the loose care of a young housemaid named Martha. At first Mary continues her disagreeable character, but after spending some time in the estate’s gardens, she begins to change. Mary learns to be curious and play in the gardens making friends with Ben Weatherstaff, a gardener, and a red robin.
Martha shares stories with Mary about her large family living in a cottage. Mary likes Martha’s stories and is especially fond of her mother Mrs. Sowerby, and Dickon, a twelve year old boy who befriends the wildlife.
Mary also learns about a garden that has been locked up for ten years; Mr. Craven and his wife loved the garden and would spend hours inside it. When she died, Mr. Craven had it locked up and the key buried. Mary is quite curious about the secret garden and with the help of the robin, she finds the key and the hidden door. Inside, Mary secretly begins weeding hoping that the roses will still be alive after ten years of abandonment.
One night, inside the Yorkshire mansion, Mary hears the sound of someone crying. She discovers Colin Craven, an ill-tempered ten year old boy who believes he is going to die. Colin and Mary get along much to the surprise of everyone else in the house. The two eat together, read books, and share stories of the secret garden and Dickon.
After sharing the story of the secret garden with Colin, it is decided that he will venture out and Dickon will be his escort. From then on, Colin, Mary, and Dickon visit the secret garden every day and even let old Ben Weatherstaff in on their secret. Colin experiments with Magic and first stands, then walks, and finally is able to run and exercise like a regular boy. He keeps these new abilities a secret from the servants and Dr. Craven, until he is able to surprise his father himself.
Essential Questions for The Secret Garden
Why is family important - especially for children?
What is magic?
What is willpower?
How does your thinking have an effect on what happens around you?
In this activity, students will depict the characters of the story using a character map. Have students pay close attention to the physical and character traits of both major and minor characters. Students will provide detailed information regarding how the characters interact with the main characters, as well as challenges the characters face.
[ELA-Literacy/RL/5/6] Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.
Point of view provides the eyes, ears, and thoughts of a character. By analyzing point of view, students can gather insight to the author’s purpose, theme, and voice. In this activity, students will examine the author’s point of view and identify ways it is unique in understanding elements of the story.
“Mary had thought it must be different from other gardens which had not been left all by themselves so long…”
The Robin’s Feelings
“The robin was tremendously busy. He was very much pleased to see gardening begun on his own estate.”
Speaks to the Reader
“Colin flushed triumphantly. He had made himself believe that he was going to get well, which was really more than half the battle. If he had been aware of it.”
In this activity, students demonstrate their understanding of several words using a spider map as a visual vocabulary board. After choosing the word(s), students provide the part of speech, definition, an example from the text, and demonstrate their understanding of the word(s) through an illustration in the related storyboard cell.
[ELA-Literacy/RL/5/2] Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. The theme provides a moral to the story and is the central idea behind the text. Through analyzing themes, students can delve deeper into the text’s meaning and apply the moral to their own lives. In this activity, students will identify a theme of The Secret Garden and support it with evidence from the text.
Example Themes from The Secret Garden
In India she had always been too hot and languid and weak to care much about anything, but in this place she was beginning to care and to want to do new things. Already she felt less “contrary,” though she did not know why.
Mistress Mary felt a little awkward as she went out of the room. Yorkshire people seemed strange, and Martha was always rather a puzzle to her. At first she had disliked her very much, but now she did not.
Mary had indeed been rather like him herself and since she had been at Misselthwaite had gradually discovered that her own manners had not been of the kind which is usual or popular.
Thinking him over and saying to herself that, queer as it was, here was another person whom she liked in spite of his crossness. She liked old Ben Weatherstaff. Yes, she did like him. She always wanted to try to make him talk to her.
“Do you think he is?” cried Mary eagerly. She did so want to know. “Do you think he really likes me?”
“I wish my father would come home,” he said. “I want to tell him myself. I’m always thinking about it-”
Other possible themes include: self-image, magic, nature, and growing.
[ELA-Literacy/RL/5/3] Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
This compare and contrast activity allows students to analyze the similarities and differences between two characters, settings, or objects. In this activity students will compare and contrast two characters: Mary and Colin. Students will take a closer look into these characters and develop a deeper understanding of their role and connection to the plot.
Compare and Contrast Mary and Colin
Mary is a spoiled, stubborn girl that demands everything from her Ayah.
Colin gives orders to the servants and Dr. Craven.
Her mother did not want a little girl and demanded that the girl be kept away from her at all times.
“My mother died when I was born and it makes him wretched to look at me. He thinks I don’t know, but I’ve heard people talking. He almost hates me.”
“It is very sad, now the poor beautiful thing is gone, to remember that many people never even knew that she had a child at all.”
Ben Weatherstaff asks Colin if he has a hump on his back and if his legs are crooked.