The Ghost Garden

Authored by Emma Carroll
Published by Barrington Stoke

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The Ghost Garden is the highly-anticipated collaboration between Emma Carroll and Barrington Stoke is finally here for all KS2 readers to enjoy. Emma Carroll is a writer of world renown for her brilliant and exciting historical adventures and Barrington Stoke are a forward-thinking publisher looking to make all books accessible. The Ghost Garden brings together the talents of both and we are presented with a short ghost story that will thrill and excite readers.

Fran, the gardener’s daughter, has an overactive imagination, pondering over murder and kidnap when she unearths a bone in the garden. She is later shaken when one of the estate owner’s grandchildren breaks their leg on the same day. Surely it is just coincidence? Could they be linked? Prediction or coincidence, Fran can’t ignore the strange connections between items she finds in the garden and events that take place in the same day.

With Leo stuck in a wheelchair due to his broken leg, Fran has been tasked with entertaining him. In place of sitting and talking, which they both find uncomfortable, they explore the vast estate. Leo is obsessed with the looming news of war and is not allowed to read the newspapers. Instead, they find an old map of the estate and explore looking for an ancient burial ground. “There’s an atmosphere in this place as if something has happened in the past.”

There is a certain magic in the air surrounding Longbarrow Estate and both Fran and Leo feel the pull to find this sacred ground. This slightly spooky ghost story is full of accurate historical details leading up to the announcement of the declaration of war. I felt as though I were on the search with Fran and Leo, understanding the magic at work, all the while appreciating their new friendship and feeling the fear of knowing what devastation war will ravage on the community.

Community is at the heart of this story- learning to work together, forge friendships and lean on each other when times get tough. This community will face unknown hardships in the coming years. Aside from the superb story, there is also the overwhelmingly positive message that we should embrace the small happy moments of time together and carefree days. As we currently continue to face restrictions due to the pandemic, perhaps this book offers a message of hope. “Perhaps her beloved garden had foreseen the future. Maybe it was telling her this: that difficult times are better faced together.”

As it is short but packed full of charm, history and friendship, most individual readers would likely read it in one go. As a class book, there is much to be unpicked and there are so many important quotes that could be used to spark fascinating discussions and debates. Use during a WWI topic would highlight the fear, worry and uncertainty over the need for war.

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