A remote Canadian farm contains a magic garden.
It’s 1945, and 12-year-old Franny lives with her adoptive parents, Sina and Old Tom, on a lovely rambling farm. World War II hasn’t affected them much until Sina agrees to take charge of three siblings, Winifred, Wilfred, and Zebediah, while their mother goes up to the nearby air base to prevent their father, Fixing Bob, who works as a mechanic for a secret type of plane, the Argot, from doing “something stupid.” Sina sees a UFO, Zebediah receives mysterious letters, and when Fixing Bob steals the Argot, only the wish-granting abilities of the night garden can save him. If the night garden feels like deus ex machina in summary it does even more so in reality, as it isn’t referenced in any way until Page 39, and its magic isn’t mentioned until Page 144. Franny’s first-person narration is wry and intelligent, infused with Horvath’s trademark humor, and the ending of the book is sweetly meaningful, but the exposition takes so long, and the plot shoots off in so many unexplained directions, that many readers won’t make it that far. Characters are white by default.
Fans of Horvath’s Newbery Honor book, Everything on a Waffle (2001), will be disappointed; this one isn’t nearly as good. (Fiction. 8-12)