Archive for December 29th, 2016


by Sam Juliano

Some may be inclined to label it a cross between Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel The Secret Garden and Tim Burton’s exquisite 1990 dark fantasy film Edward Scissorhands,  but in the end the defining spirit and essence of the staggeringly beautiful The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers is fully attuned to the concept of passing on a special gift that will benefit succeeding generations.  What happens in this sparsely worded but spaciously illustrated book is tantamount to a re-birth, a transformation, where creativity permanently replaces a longtime acceptance of the norm.  It is a story about how an adult can pass on to an impressionable child the gift of a lifetime.  The deceit of waking up to behold a new and astonishing treat from Mother Nature was of course integral to the narrative of Charlotte’s Web, where crowds from all over came to see the latest miracle at Homer Zuckerman’s barn.  Though there isn’t a time frame explicitly asserted in The Night Gardener, the copyright page spread suggests the late 40’s/early 50’s  by way of the car models and favored apparel.  The opening sepia toned canvas turns out to be far more significant than it first appears to be, as it evokes a seemingly normal, everyday American town before the changes that will make it wholly extraordinary.  We learn that the name of the street is Grimloch Lane, and that those who reside there are engaged in their own affairs – grocery shopping, carrying young children or transporting home tools by foot.  It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see it in Thorton Wilder’s terms, though the name suggests something of the stagnant variety.  Under the watchful eye of a young girl, everyone heads off in their own direction.  If this was a mystery book, it would be difficult not to name the sinister looking fellow with his head down carrying a briefcase as the likely perpetrator in whatever events are to follow. (more…)

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