Ruby Reads Books

The Secret Garden: Version Tour

The Secret Garden: Version Tour

The Secret Garden: choose your reading experience

So... you’re ready to read the Secret Garden with your family? Yay! What a treat you have in store! More than with most books, you have a few choices to make before you dive in. We’ve done a little legwork to help you choose between some of your many options.  

Audiobook or read-aloud?

It’s no secret that we typically prefer reading a book aloud over using an audiobook, but in the case of The Secret Garden, we found several great audiobook versions that we love. Because several of the characters in The Secret Garden speak in a heavy Yorkshire accent (the dialogue is written somewhat phonetically), we sometimes felt a little unsure about “performing” the dialogue authentically and with confidence. Enter: the audiobook! Finola Hughes performs a reading of the unabridged text, and there’s an abridged version read by Helena Bonham Carter. Both are fantastic.

(Fans of Yoto players - there’s a Yoto card of The Secret Garden (abridged) read by Jenny Agutter, and a BBC full cast dramatization, as well. We haven’t listened to these, so if you have an opinion, please chime in in the comments!)


How much time do you have for reading, and how much experience do your listeners have? Although we’re not usually fans of the abridged versions of texts, if you are reading with younger readers, we think you could enjoy the abridged version (audiobook by Helena Bonham Carter) without missing many of the themes and details that make the book the classic it is. You’ll still be able to complete the poster, but your responses to some activities may lack the detail and depth provided by the full text.


That said, if your listeners have more read-aloud experience, there’s a richness to the language and a development of themes that can only be found in the full text.


So you’ve decided to read the unabridged version!

If you’ve decided on the unabridged version of the text, you still have some choices to make! There are multiple beautifully illustrated versions of the novel available, but it can be hard to decide among them when you don’t have a chance to flip through the pages yourself. To help, we’ve rounded up a few illustrated editions. For each, we’ll show you the cover, “the garden” picture (to provide a basis for comparison), and give you our impressions.


Secret Garden illustrated by Tasha Tudor: cover              

Tasha Tudor’s illustrations are what we associate with reading The Secret Garden when we were young; maybe you do, too? This particular copy is not oversized, and all of the illustrations are in black and white. There’s such a sweetness to the character’s faces, it’s easy to see why it’s a classic. There is also a bit of fun back matter, including a recipe for crumpets that we can’t wait to try.




Cover of Michael Hague’s Secret Garden
Illustration of The Secret Garden by Michael Hague


We’re familiar with Michael Hague’s work primarily because of his version of The Velveteen Rabbit. Although the book is a generous size and the illustrations are mostly full color, we found them somewhat dark in character and preferred other editions we’ll discuss coming up.



Minalima cover                       Minalima interior garden illustration


Minalima is the graphics studio responsible for the graphic prop design of the Harry Potter movies, and they’ve produced a series of illustrated editions of classic children’s novels, including The Secret Garden. This is the version our family used when we first read it at home, and we particularly enjoyed the creative, interactive paper-foldouts and moving parts. If you like this graphic style, this is a great choice.


Cover of The Secret Garden ill. by Robert Ingpen


Our family enjoyed The Wind in the Willows, illustrated by Robert Ingpen, so we approached this review with high hopes for his version of The Secret Garden. The art is beautiful and richly detailed, however, we thought it had a darker feel and lacked some of the charm of our very favorite.

Garden interior by Robert Ingpen



And what was our favorite, you ask? We were completely enchanted by Inga Moore’s illustrations in this edition of The Secret Garden. Most are full color, and many are full-page, but we also loved the smaller panel and incidental character illustrations sprinkled throughout. We felt she did a masterful job of capturing the mystery and “misty” quality of the garden while still bringing an element of whimsy and lightness to the overall work. This would be our personal choice if we were to read it again.

Inga Moore cover of Secret GardenInterior garden illustration


 Squirrels by Inga Moore



While you do need to read a novel (abridged or unabridged) version of The Secret Garden in order to complete the poster fully, there are also a few picture book versions and one graphic novel adaptation that might be useful to some of you for other purposes. Below are a few pictures of each, along with our impressions.


Adapted by Ellyn Alcott; Illustrated by Imile Wepene. This illustrated, shortened version of The Secret Garden is very bold and bright in style. The garden is only minimally depicted. It’s not our preference, but the Wonderbook feature (recording of the text that plays as you read) may be helpful to some. 


Illustrated by Mary Collier. This version is illustrated in a more traditional style. we thought it left out so many important elements of the original that it was seemed a little disjointed. It may seem inevitable that a picture book version of a novel would seem “thin,” but we think our final picture book contender did a better job.


Internal garden illustration by Adelina Lirius

Adapted by Calista Brill; Illustrated by Adelina Lirius. The beautiful illustrations made this our hands-down picture book version. Although it necessarily omits many details from the original novel, it does manage to retain much rich vocabulary.


Graphic novel of Secret Garden

Last, but not least, for the graphic novel lover at your house, there’s this!










Do you have a great illustrated edition that we missed? Let us know in the comments!  

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