Title: Bess’s Magical Garden
Author: M.E. Hembroff
Genre: Middle Grade, Children’s
Publisher: Friesen Press
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
Release Date: October 21, 2015
Bess’s mother moves them to Pineview, away from her best friend Megan, and she terribly misses her. Six months earlier, Bess’s father died in a car crash, and she’s also in the midst of recovering from the final stages of polio. She’s in a sad and lonely place. From the moment she and her mother settle into their new home, Bess hears whispering voices and encounters a ghostly figure in the well-kept garden and in her dreams. She can’t make sense of everything and so shares her observations with Megan by writing her regular letters. During the summer, she makes new friends, including an orange and white tomcat that she names Pumpkin, and her new neighbour Josie. With the help of Mrs. O’Toole, the woman who watches her, Bess continues to recover, both physically and emotionally. She becomes more and more curious about the garden and the unexplained clues that she finds there. In Bess’s Magical Garden, Bess discovers her own true strengths through enduring life’s struggles. She – with Josie and Megan’s help – also finds some hidden items in the garden, including a map, that leave the girls with more questions than answers. Who was the figure that visited Bess? Will Bess and her friends be able to uncover the garden’s secrets? Or will those secrets be mysteries forever?
This is a cute story. Bess has faced many challenges in her young life, but she takes it all in stride. She has polio, and during her recovery, her father was killed in a car accident. Despite all of this, she is still very innocent and finds simple joys in life.
I really liked the illustrations in this story. They are childlike, but also detailed and precise. They suit the story very well.
There were some inconsistencies in the timeline of the plot which confused me. Marie, who was the daughter of the original owners of Bess’s house, was childhood friends with Rae and Mae. Now, Rae and Mae are elderly women, which would mean that Marie would also be elderly. However, Mr. and Mrs. Snow were adults when Marie was a child, which would make them very old now, but they don’t appear to be because they are still working in their general store. If this timeline were cleared up, it would have made the story much more cohesive.
The story also had a creepy aspect to it, because Bess had dreams about Marie. This made me wonder about her sanity, but she appeared to be fine. Once she solved Marie’s mystery, Bess stopped dreaming about her. These dreams had the potential to make Bess into a creepy little girl, but she retained her innocence.
This is a cute, short book for young readers.