There are very few books that conjure up big, wide, grinning smiles from 7 year olds and 70 year olds like The Secret Garden. The idea of a locked away garden being found and brought back to life is a story about loss and fear turned on its head by hope and magic.
Frances was most well-known during her lifetime for her two other best-selling books Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess, but wrote more than 60 books, 1000 short stories and 15 plays, and mostly for an adult audience. And many would be surprised to know that The Secret Garden, was not very popular when it was first published towards the end of her career in 1911. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even mentioned in her obituary in 1924 in The Times.
But today, The Secret Garden tops the list of favorite classic children’s books by readers around the world. And in 2012 it was ranked number 15 among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal.
Everywhere Frances lived, she surrounded herself with gardens, and spent hours pouring over seed catalogs planning for spring. And if you stayed at her home, you were expected to pick up a spade and help, whether you were the president or a pauper.
Frances was born in Manchester England in 1849, the third of 5 children. Her father died just three short years later and while her mother did her best to keep the family business afloat, her younger years were a series of moves to accommodate the decreasing business earnings.
Despite their struggles, Frances imagination turned a clump of weeds into lush gardens from a very young age.
“You are roses! You are violets and lilies-and hyacinths and daffodils and snowdrops! You are!” Frances would say to the weeds.
The family moved to America when she was 16, and at 18, with little more than a middle school education, Frances began her role as author and breadwinner of the family.
Her life was one of the best stories ever written. There’s money, drama, adventure, intrigue, fashion, famous friends, lawsuits, generosity, exotic locations, death, beauty, divorce, successes, failures…and of course a bit of earth. All of this fueled one of the most prolific writers of her time and made her a newsstand celebrity hounded by the press.