Title: The Night Gardener
Author: Jonathan Auxier
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pub. Date: May 20, 2014
Genre: Middle Grade
Rec. Age Level: 8-12
More by this author: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
Goodreads / Buy It
After being separated from their parents during flight from the Irish potato famine, siblings Molly and Kip must rely on their wits and hard work to survive. In desperate need of work, food, and a safe place to stay, they have no choice but to accept servant positions at an estate deep in the forbidding sourwoods. Though there is something decidedly odd about the estate and the family that resides there, Molly assures Kip that they'll get by, even after Kip spots an sinister spectre roaming the grounds at night. Who is this mysterious man that stalks the grounds? What secrets are hidden within the estate? And will Molly and Kip have the strength and courage to survive the evil curse that holds the sourwoods in its grip? The Night Gardener is an unforgettable middle grade novel that highlights the the dangers of greed and the importance of family.
I absolutely adored this book; it's creepy, relays an important lesson, and reads beautifully. Auxier is a talented wordsmith... I think this book would make a great classroom read aloud. There are plenty of great cliffhanger stopping points throughout and it's just creepy enough that students will be hanging on your every word, speculating about what will happen next, and looking forward to the next chapter. There's plenty of foreshadowing to discuss, as well as history (Ireland, potato famine, etc) and fodder for moral discussions about greed, courage, and intentional versus unintentional consequences.
After only one book, Auxier has landed on my middle grade must-read list. I'm definitely going back and reading his debut, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, and am hopeful that there will be many more novels to devour in the future!