Mary Lennox is a brat. That’s what I remember thinking when I was seven years old and reading The Secret Garden for the first time. My aunt, the one that always bought me books (we all had a relative like that right?) bought me a copy for my 7thbirthday. She said maybe it would be a little too much for me, but I pretty much took her words as a challenge and was determined to read it on my own. So I did and for the very first time, I found myself with a real quandary while reading a book. Mary Lennox was most certainly a nasty, bratty little girl who’d I’d probably hate if I met her in real life, but I also remember thinking that maybe she had a good reason. Her parents were dead, everyone forgot about her and then she was sent to live in a strange house in an even stranger place. This wasn’t black and white, a hero or a villain. This was the first shade of gray I’d ever encountered and it fascinated me. Of course I didn’t really understand that at the time. I was simply drawn into the magical world of Yorkshire, the mysterious boy who thought he would die and the boy with red hair and beautiful blue eyes who could talk to the animals. I think I might have loved it despite Mary.
As an adult, the world of The Secret Garden was no less magical. I still fell in love with Dickon and his animals. The mystery of Colin and his “crooked” back was no less intriguing, but my opinion of Mary was a total reversal. As a little girl I thought that she was a brat, but with good reason. Now, it was all I could do not to weep for the little girl who had no understanding of how desperate she was for her mother’s love, for anyone to take notice of her, for just an ounce of happiness. It was such a joy to watch the magic of the garden, but truly the magic of having people love and care for her, transform Mary into a strong girl, one capable of amazing things, like helping a sick boy become healthy and reuniting a family.
Now, years later, I finally understand what kindled my interest in reading about girls like Laura Ingalls and Anne Shirley and later, Elizabeth Bennett and it all came back to a little brat I was sure I wouldn’t be able to stand and the magic she experienced in a secret garden.
Jennifer Iacopelli was born in New York and has no plans to leave...ever. Growing up, she read everything she could get her hands on, but her favorite authors were Laura Ingalls Wilder, L.M. Montgomery and Frances Hodgson Burnett all of whom wrote about kick-ass girls before it was cool for girls to be kick-ass. She got a Bachelor's degree in Adolescence Education and English Literature quickly followed up by a Master's in Library Science, which lets her frolic all day with her books and computers, leaving plenty of time in the evenings to write and yell at the Yankees, Giants and her favorite tennis players through the TV.