Today I’d like to share an extra special book review as I have been kindly given the chance to showcase some of the beautiful artwork that has gone into the book I’m reviewing below.  If you read through my review you’ll be able to see some high quality images of the wonderful illustrations that have gone into The Ghost Garden, all illustrated by Kaja Kajfež.  So please do scroll down to see more of these beautiful full sized images and I hope you love them as much as I do! 🙂

Title: The Ghost Garden
Author: Emma Carroll
Illustrator: Kaja Kajfež
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
Genre: Older children’s/middle grade fiction, Historical
Book format: Paperback
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Description: Summer 1914.
When Fran unearths a bone in the garden of Longbarrow House on the same afternoon that Leo breaks his leg, it is just the first in a series of strange and unsettling coincidences.
Leo is left wheelchair bound for the rest of the summer and Fran is roped in to keep him company, forced to listen to his foolish theories about the looming threat of war in Europe.
Suddenly the garden she has loved all her life seems to hold threatening shadows of the future, and Fran starts to fear what she and Leo might find next…

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:   It’s 1914 and Fran loves nothing more than helping her father in the gardens of Longbarrow House. As she digs up some potatoes, Fran suddenly hits something, a bone, large enough to belong to a human.  Soon after one of the grandchildren of the owner of Longbarrow House, has an accident and is hurt, his injury being a broken leg bone. Fran can’t help but feel an uneasy connection between the two. Did the bone she just found and hit while digging, cause the boy his accident? And if it did, what other things might she find in the gardens of the house?

The Ghost Garden illustration one
© Kaja Kajfež

I have really enjoyed this lovely and quite spooky story. Fran’s parents work at Longbarrow house.  Her father is a gardener and Fran spends time with him helping to pull up the vegetables from the garden.  Soon after his accident, Leo, one of three grandchildren of Mrs Walker, the estate’s owner, soon returns from hospital, and spends his days stuck in a wicker bath chair, a sort of old-fashioned wicker wheelchair, and Fran is soon asked to keep him company every day to help keep his mind away from thoughts of a war which hasn’t happened yet. The two end up exploring the gardens and grounds of the Longbarrow Estate and when Leo shares what he knows about the name of the house, it isn’t long before they find something interesting and quite eerie.

The Ghost Garden illustration two
© Kaja Kajfež

I can’t help but be reminded of The Secret Garden when I read this, and I just loved what happened when Fran and Leo met every day.  The idea of the children searching for something unknown in the vast outdoor gardens of the house, as well as the idea of the two of them being from very different backgrounds and classes, having to get along and find some common ground was interesting to read.  I like how some slightly old fashioned language and expressions were weaved into the speech of these characters, especially Leo when he’s expressing his annoyance at being left in the garden alone. The story is a bit of a spooky one and while it isn’t really scary, there are some great and spooky coincidences between what Fran finds in the garden and what happens in wider world, and there’s also a spooky feel to what the two find towards the end of the book too. While Leo is at first preoccupied with thoughts about things happening in the world, and in particular about a looming war, his focus soon changes to finding something specific in the grounds of Longbarrow House. I liked how both of these characters grew through the story and I enjoyed the slight tension they had at the start.

The Ghost Garden illustration three
© Kaja Kajfež

As the two search the grounds they eventually find what they are looking for and I just love how this happens and how interesting the story became. I didn’t know what would happen once they came across something in the garden and in fact what they find and what happens ends up being more spooky and eerie than I had imagined! The ending is a good one, it wraps up the tale of the children’s garden adventure well, even though there are mixed feelings mentioned about the impending war. I like how this was wrapped up though, and the thoughts that Fran had and the wonderful message of hope that the story left us with.

The Ghost Garden illustration four
© Kaja Kajfež

The illustrations are lovely and appear along several pages in the book. Each of the images is in black white and grey and all of them show very well what the charcters are doing and the expressions they have. I just love how each of the different characters looks. The illustrations do a good job of enhancing the atmosphere of what is happeneing, especially later on when we discover what it is that Fran and Leo find in the garden. I just love how great all of these pictures look and they really do help to make the book more fun to read. The book is printed on thick yellowish coloured paper which makes it easier to look at for anyone with reading difficulties. The text is also very easy to read, printed in a special font and with each paragraph separated, it all together makes it easier to read for dyslexics and anyone who has difficulty reading. The book is quite short one too, at under a hundred pages so it makes it an easy read for those who find bigger books too daunting to try.

The Ghost Garden illustration five
© Kaja Kajfež

I really do like this historical tale. I’ve always loved stories set in and around the first and second world wars, but this one is a really lovely with the children discovering something very interesting in the gardens and something quite spooky happening towards the ending.  There are some brilliant twists and eerie coincidences and the story in general is really compelling to read.  In fact I couldn’t stop turning the pages until I had finished the whole book!  While the general story of what happens in the garden and all the spookiness of it makes for a fun read, it’s really the hopeful message at the end, and the friendship that develops between the two children which really makes this a lovely book to read and one which I would recommend to everyone regardless of age!

What do you think of this book?  Do you like the illustrations?  Let me know what you think in the comments below  🙂