"Funny thing, wishes. You can't hold 'em in your hand, and yet just one could unmake the world." Hester Kettle in The Night Gardener
Before you make a wish, do you pause to consider the consequences of the wish, if granted? Aesop, the father of fables, said, "We would often be sorry if our wishes were granted." In exploring the depths where wishes might lead, The Night Gardener introduces you to the magical power of storytelling that will tingle your spine as the roots of a frightening fable becomes woven around two young Irish siblings in an ancient curse that would threaten their lives.
Molly, the older of two Irish orphans, seeking work for herself and her brother Kip, paused from farm to farm to find the Windsor estate. Lured by the promise of jobs and the hope of finding food and a place to sleep the two children moved on. Ignoring warnings of ghosts and doom they heard at each stop, the two rode forward in a broken-down fishcart, behind a rather unpleasant horse, deeper and deeper into the sourwoods. After all, what could be worse than the constant pinch of hunger in their bellies? Molly filled the distance with stories to mask her worry and protect her little brother who had grown sick with fever.
On the way, they made the acquaintance of an old, manikin woman playing a hurdy-gurdy. Was she a witch? Kip wanted to know and came right out to ask. The cackling witchlike response seemed to contradict her answer. Hester Kettle introduced herself as the storyteller of the area. She reinforced the warnings about Windsor house but invited the children to bring her back a story to tell.
Molly and Kip continued their journey that led them across a bridge to an old, creepy, manor house hidden on an overgrown island. The decrepit mansion seemed to have become one with an ancient, enormous, menacing tree whose branches crept in and out of the walls in all directions. It was not a tree that invited one to climb in its branches. That was for certain.
And what do you think they found inside the house? Not ordinary people, you can be sure, but they put the two children to work immediately as their servants. Molly was to cook and clean inside the mansion. Cheery, confident, and courageous Kip was to tend the garden, a challenging job for a youngster with a frail, bent leg even with the help of his crutch made by his Pa who named it "Courage."
Creepy elements began to grow into terror around them.
Muddy footprints appeared on the floor every morning.
A frightening man (the Night Gardener) roamed the house at night.
The family of the house grew pale and sick.
Two children had only the rolling mounds of lawn on which to play.
A mean, bully of a boy named Alister endlessly tormented Kip and his little sister Penny,
The mysterious green room at the top of the stairs held something dark.
The wishes became deadly as they are granted in exchange for ... can you guess?
Storytelling becomes the foundation of this tale of horror with a profound lesson about greed, needs, and the destructive nature of addiction. Molly herself is a storyteller who uses her stories to help muffle the screams. Hester Kettle, the resident storyteller of the area, tells her stories for favors and gathers them from events around her. It is she who reveals the story of the Night Gardener to Molly and Kip. She offers wisdom to help Molly (and the reader) understand the difference between stories and lies. The frightening themes of Good vs. Evil, cowardice vs. courage, and desires vs. wants resound in its pages.
Too scary for kids? What would C. S. Lewis say if he had read The Night Gardener? Here are his thoughts about frightening stories:
"And I think it possible that by confining your child to blameless stories of child life in which nothing alarming ever happens, you would fail to banish the terrors, and would succeed in banishing all that can ennoble them or make them endurable. For, in the fairy tales, side by side with the terrible figures, we find the immemorial comforters and protectors, the radiant ones; and the terrible figures are not merely terrible, but sublime." C. S. Lewis
The Kids Wings Literature Guide by Suzy Red includes the following activities in both PowerPoint and PDF formats:
Teacher Page: Fairy Tale Elements
Prereading Discussion Cards
Setting Up a Dialectical Journal
Map Study: Where in the World Are England and Ireland?
3-Page Readers Theater Introduction
Chart the Story's Progress
Figures of Speech! Get the Picture!
Complete Vocabulary List and Tic-Tac-Toe
8 Grouped Chapter Vocabulary and Questions in Predict-Read-Confirm Format
Multiple Choice Chapter Check-ups
Listening for Point of View or Voice in the Story
Illustrating Chapters 33 and 34
Diagnosing Dr. Crouch
Illustrating Chapters 36-39
Creating Mood in The Story
Creating a Model of Ma and Pa's Ship
Plotting the Plot
Visualizing the Text
A Magical Mysterious Literary Form, A Logic Puzzle
Three Research Projects
A Truth to Be Celebrated, Puzzle
Visualize and Label the Fairy Tale Elements
5-in-a-Row Vocabulary Games for Parts 1 and 2
Plus, a BONUS Interactive Jeopardy-type Game in PowerPoint format.
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