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T e a c h e rs n o t e s 1

The Secret Garden


by Frances Hodgson Burnett

irst published in 1911, The Secret Garden is still a favourite with a romantic plot. After moving with her husband to Washington
F childrens classic. Three films of the book have been made,
the most recent in 1993.
DC, Burnett wrote the novels Haworths (1879), Louisiana (1880), A
Fair Barbarian (1881) and Through One Administration (1883), as
Mary Lennox was born in India to English parents. Her mother well as a play, Esmeralda (1881), written with actor-playwright
wasnt interested in her and she was looked after by an Indian William Gillette. In 1886, Burnetts most famous and successful
servant. Mary was a spoilt, ill-tempered and unhealthy child. When book, Little Lord Fauntleroy, appeared. Burnett had two sons,
she was nine, her parents died and she went to live with her Lionel, born in 1874 and Vivian, born in 1876. Vivian inspired Little
reclusive uncle in a big old manor house in Yorkshire. Here, Mary Lord Fauntleroy. Much of what he said and did as a child found its
meets the housekeeper, Mrs Medlock, and a friendly maid called way into the character of Fauntleroy.
Martha, who helps to look after her. Mary spends her time in the After the failure of her marriage, Burnett divided her time between
gardens and meets the dour gardener and a cheerful robin. One England and Long Island, New York. She continued her writing, and
day she finds a secret garden. It has walls all around it and she in 1905 The Little Princess was published. Burnett had been
cannot find a door. For once in her life Mary is interested in interested in gardens and nature since she was a child and while
something. The gardener tells her the garden belonged to her living in Long Island developed an interest in gardening. It was while
uncles wife, and has been locked since she died ten years ago. devising a layout for her garden in Long Island that she wrote her
With the help of the robin, Mary finds a key and the door to the most famous book, The Secret Garden. Nearly 100 years later it is
garden. At first, everything looks dead in the garden, but when she still read and enjoyed by children. Burnett continued to write until
finds some little green plants, she decides to make the garden her death in 1924.
green and beautiful again. Marthas brother, Dickon, an animal
lover, brings Mary a spade and some seeds and she shares her
secret with him. Together they begin to work on the garden. Mary BACKGROUND AND THEMES
grows happier and healthier.
One night she hears someone crying. She follows the noise and Recurring themes in Burnetts novels are the transforming power of
finds Colin, a sickly, wilful child who is actually her cousin. Colin love and the reversals of fortune. Her stories are very romantic.
thinks he is going to be a hunchback like his father so he stays in Someone in them is usually forlorn, sickly or miserable ... And there
bed all the time. Mary and Colin soon become friends and Mary tells is someone else, who is brave, strong and helpful. The characters
him there is nothing wrong with his back. Mary and Dickon decide have to go through all sorts of trials and tribulations. But in the end
to take Colin to the garden. Colin begins to help tend the garden things come out right for everybody in a fairytale sort of way.
and soon he is able to walk again. Mr Craven comes home and is In The Secret Garden, both Mary and Colin are sickly, unhappy
overjoyed to see his healthy son. The magic of the garden has children. Both have absent parents and they feel unloved and
healed Colin and brought happiness to Mary. unlovable. Mary and Colin are spoilt children and are used to
getting their own way. The book shows that spoiling brings misery
and unhappiness.
ABOUT FRA NCES HO DGSON BUR NETT When Mary moves to Yorkshire, she begins to take an interest in
the gardens and eventually manages to get into a secret garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett was born on 24 November, 1849 in that has been neglected since Mrs Craven died. Working in the
Cheetham Hill, Manchester, England. She was the eldest daughter garden restores Marys health and brings her happiness. She
in a family of two boys and three girls. Her father, a well-to-do begins to like people and to believe that people will like her. She
ironmonger and silversmith, died when she was four. The family fell shares her garden with Colin and he too grows well and strong. The
on hard times and moved to Salford, a much poorer area of magic of the garden coming to life after years of neglect transforms
Manchester. Frances witnessed the lives of poor people, which she the lives of both Mary and Colin. The garden acts as a means of
would later deal with in novels such as That Lass oLowries (1877). health and as a symbol of their growing personalities. The Secret
She also became fascinated by dialect, which she used Garden also encourages independence. It suggests that children
successfully in The Secret Garden. should be self-reliant and have faith in themselves, that they should
When Frances was sixteen, the family emigrated to the United listen to their own hearts and consciences as adults are not always
States and settled in New Market, near Knoxville, Tennessee. They right.
lived at first in a log cabin and Frances briefly set up a school. There Yorkshire is a large county in the north-east of England. There
were eight pupils who paid in kindwith vegetables and eggs. When are many pretty villages in Yorkshire with stone cottages and
Frances was 18, she submitted a story to Godeys Ladys Book. attractive churches. There is also a lot of moorland. The Yorkshire
Within a few years she was being published regularly in Godeys, moors are very well known in England. They provide magnificent,
Petersons Ladies Magazine, Scribner s Monthly and Harpers. In dramatic scenery and are loved and admired by residents and
1873, after a year s visit to England, she married Dr Swan Burnett. visitors alike. A small plant called heather grows on the moors. In
Burnetts first novel That Lass oLowries, which had been the summer months these plants are pink and purple and the
serialized in Scribners, was published in 1877. Like her short moors look like a sea of colour.
stories, the book combined a detailed portrayal of working class life

Pearson Education 2001

Penguin Readers Factsheets 2
T e a c h e rs n o t e s
story from page 26 to the first paragraph break on page
Communicative activities 34. However, they put their sentences in the wrong order.
The following teacher-led activities cover the same Pair B does the same for pages 34 to 39. Each pair then
sections of text as the exercises at the back of the hands their sentences to the other pair who have to put
Reader, and supplement those exercises. For them in the right order.
supplementary exercises covering shorter sections of the
book, see the photocopiable Students Activities pages of
this Factsheet. These are primarily for use with class 1 Put students into small groups and ask them to talk
readers but, with the exception of discussion and about what Mary and Colin are like at the beginning of
pair/groupwork questions, can also be used by students the story, and how they change by the end of the
working alone in a self-access centre. story. How does the garden help them to change?
2 Put students into pairs. Ask them to choose a new
ACTIVITIES BEFORE READING THE BOOK picture for the front cover of the book. (This cannot be
1 Put students into pairs. Teach the word secret or ask one of the existing pictures in the book.) Then as a
students to look it up in their dictionaries. Tell students whole-class activity, write up all the ideas on the
to look at the picture on the front cover of the book board. Students then vote for the one they like the
and to discuss these questions. best.
(a) When do you think the story happens? Say why.
(b) What is the garden like? Why do you think it is a
secret garden? Glossary
(c) Who are the children? How old are they? It will be useful for your students to know these new words. They
2 Put students into small groups. Have a competition to are practised in the Before You Readsections of exercises at the
back of the book (Definitions are based on those in the Longman
see which group can list the most things that can be
Active Study Dictionary.)
found in a garden.
Chapters 15
ACTIVITIES AFTER READING A SECTION ago (adj) used to say how far back in the past something happened
Chapters 15 cross (adj) annoyed or angry
grass (n) a very common plant with thin green leaves that grows
1 Ask students to work in groups of three. They role across fields, parks, etc.
play a conversation between Mrs Medlock, Martha hunchback (n) someone who has large raised part on their back
and Ben Weatherstaff. They all talk about how they key (n) something that you put into a lock in order to open a door
met Mary and what they think about her. moor (n) an area of high land covered with rough grass or low
2 Put students into small groups to discuss this
plant (n) a living thing that has leaves and roots and is usually
smaller than a tree
At the beginning of the story, Mary wasnt a nice child. robin (n) a common wild bird with a red chest and brown back
Talk about her life in India. Why do you think she rose (n) a common sweet-smelling garden flower that grows on a
wasnt nice? bush that has thorns
secret (adj) known about by only a few people
Then discuss ideas as a class.
servant (n) someone whose job is to live in another persons house
Chapters 610 and do jobs such as cleaning and cooking, especially in past times
side (n) one of the two areas left or right of an imaginary line down
1 Have a quiz! First look through the section and write
the middle of something
20 questions. For example: spade (n) a tool with a long handle and a wide flat part at the end
What moved the plants under the robin? used for digging
voice (n) the sound you make when you speak or sing
Divide the class into two teams. Ask each team a
question in turn. Teams score two points if they get Chapters 610
their own question right. They score one point if the dig (v) to move earth or make a hole in it using a tool, your hands,
or a machine
other team cant answer a question and they can.
grow (v) to develop and become bigger or longer over a period of
2 Ask students to work in pairs. They role play a time
conversation between Mary and Colin. magic (adj) having special powers used to make strange or
Colin tells Mary why he is in bed, and asks questions impossible things happen
about the garden. Mary tells Colin why she is in the part (n) a piece of something such as a film, area or period of time
seed (n) a small hard thing produced by plants that a new plant will
house, and tells him about the garden.
grow from
Chapters 1115 wheelchair (n) a chair with wheels, used by people who cannot
Put students into groups of four. Divide each group into
two pairs, A and B. Pair A writes ten sentences telling the

Pub lis hed a nd dis tribut ed by Pearson Educ ati on

Factsheet written by Yvonne Harmer
Pearson Education 2001 Fac tshee t ser ie s dev elope d by Lou is e James
Penguin Readers Factsheets level

Students activities 1

The Secret Garden 3

Photocopiable 4
Students can do these ectivities alone or with one or more
other students. Pair/group-only exercises are marked. 5

Activities before reading the book 6

1 Read the Introduction in your book. Now close the is Martha different from the servants in India? Do you
book. What can you remember about Frances think Martha will be good for Mary? Why/Why not? ELEMENTARY
Hodgson Burnett?
Chapters 4 & 5
(a) What year was she born?
1 Who says these things? Who to? What are they
(b) Where was she born?
talking about?
(c) How old was she when she moved to America?
(a) Were the same, you and I.
(d) How many books did she write?
(b) Thats very sad.
(e) Why did she write stories for newspapers and
(c) It was the wind.
(d) What is this place?
(f) What book did she write in 1886?
(e) He hasnt got a family.
2 Work in pairs. Look at the picture on page 4. What
(f) What are you doing here?
do you think it is like to live in this house?
2 Who do you think is crying in the house? Where are
they? Write down your ideas.
Activities while reading the book
CHAPTERS 15 Chapter 6
Chapter 1 You are Mary. Write to Mr and Mrs Crawford. Tell them
Answer these questions. about the secret garden. Tell them how the robin helped
(a) Where did the Lennox family live? you go into the garden.

(b) Why did Mrs Lennox give her baby to an Indian Chapters 7 & 8
servant? 1 This is what happens in chapters 7 and 8. Put these
(c) What did Mary look like? words in the right places.
(d) Why did the servants never say no to Mary? part ill worked secret green told happy met
(e) Why did everybody forget about Mary? seeds wanted spade
Chapters 2 & 3 Mary went to the (a) garden every day. She didnt
1 Match the two halves of the sentences. look (b) now, she was very (c) in the garden.
(a) Mr Archibald Craven was One day she (d) Dickon. He had her (e) and
(b) Mrs Medlock was (f) Mary (g) Dickon her secret and they (h)
(c) Mr Cravens house
hard in the garden. Mr Craven (i) to see Mary.
(d) A moor
Mary said she would like a small (j) of the
(e) Dickon is
gardens. Mr Craven said, Make it (k) and
(f) Mr Craven closed one of the gardens
(i) Marthas brother.
(ii) a hunchback. 2 Talk with another student or write your answer. Why
is Mary well and happy now?
(iii) has red-blue grass.
Why do you think she told Dickon her secret? What
(iv) when his wife died. do you think about Dickon?
(v) fat with a red face and small black eyes.
(vi) is 600 years old and is in Yorkshire.
2 Talk with another student or write your answer. How

Pearson Education 2001

Penguin Readers Factsheets 2
Students activities

Chapters 9 & 10 (a) Why did Colin tell Mrs Medlock that he didnt
want to see anybody in the gardens?
1 These sentences are wrong. Make them right.
(b) Why didnt Dickon want to talk about the old
(a) Mary woke up because she heard the crying
sound again.
(c) Why did Mary think there was magic in the
(b) She ran through the house and came to an open
(d) Why did Colin want Ben to come into the
(c) Colin was about twelve years old and had big
blue eyes.
(e) What is Mrs Sowerbys idea?
(d) Colin doesnt want people to see him because
hes very thin. 2 Talk with another student or write your answer. How
(e) Mary wants the servants to find the key to the does Colin change in these two chapters? Do you
garden. think there is magic in the garden?
(f) Martha is happy that Mary knows about Colin. Chapter 15
(g) The doctor wants Mary to see Colin every day. 1 Finish these sentences.
2 Work with another student. (a) Mary was nicer and happier because
Student A: You are Colin. Tell Mary why you never (b) Before he met Mary, Colin
leave your room. Tell her about your mother and (c) Nothing helped Mr Craven because
(d) When Mr Craven was in the Austrian mountains,
Student B: You are Mary. Ask Colin why he is crying. he
Tell him about Dickon.
(e) Mr Craven goes back to Yorkshire because
3 Talk with another student or write your answer. (f) Colin said he was better because of
Do you think that Colin is really ill? What do you (g) Mrs Medlock threw up her hands because
think will help him?
2 Talk with another student or write your answer.
CHAPTERS 1115 (a) Why do you think Mrs Sowerby wrote a letter to
Chapters 11 & 12 Mr Craven saying, Your wife would like you to
come home?
1 What happens first, second, third, fourth ...? Write
(b) Why do you think Mr Craven thought he was a
19 next to the sentences.
bad father?
(a) Mary goes to the secret garden.
(b) Martha asks Mary to talk to Cohn.
(c) Mary tells Colin about the secret garden.
(d) Dickon comes into the room with a bird on his Activities after reading the book
1 Work in small groups. Look at the names of the
(e) Mary and Dickon work in the garden.
chapters in the book. Write a different name for each
(f) Mary finds some books from Mr Craven. chapter and write one sentence to say what happens
(g) Colin says he would like to meet Dickon. in that chapter.
(h) Colin is angry because Mary didnt go to see 2 Talk to another student. Which person in the book do
him. you like best? Explain why.
(i) Mary tells Colin that hes not going to be a 3 You are Mary or Colin. Write about how the magic of
hunchback. the garden helped you.
2 Work with another student. Look up the word
relationship in your dictionary. Talk about Marys
relationship with Colin.
Chapters 13 & 14
1 Answer these questions.

Publish ed and distrib ute d by P earson E ducat ion

Factsheet written by Yvonne Harmer
Pearson Education 2001
F act sheet s eri es deve l oped b y L ouise J ames