Review Blog

Nov 19 2019

The wind in the wall by Sally Gardner

cover image

Illus. by Rovina Cai. Hot Key Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781471404986.
(Ages: 15+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fantasy, Myth, Fairy tale, Cautionary tale, Pineapples. In this new cautionary tale reading like a fairy tale of old, Sally Gardner tells the tale of a gardener in the employ of the Duke of Northumberland. The duke is desperate to grow and raise a pineapple and employs the gardener to take charge of the hothouse and the plant.
From page one we know that this hapless gardener is imprisoned and read on to find out how and why he is thus ensconced.
Because he could not grow a pineapple, the duke demotes him to be his wife's gardener, in charge of the flower garden, a position he does not like. And a new person is employed to grow a pineapple. But Mr Amicus arouses suspicion. Just what is in the birdcage he takes into his house, and why is the hothouse filled with light at night? And just how does he manage to grow a pineapple?
The gardener creeps to the hothouse at night and spies a naked woman, surrounded by green feathers, imprisoned in the birdcage, tapping all the while on its bars. Mr Amicus wears the same sort of feather in his hat. He drunkenly returns and warns the gardener to stay away from the hothouse and his wife. Shocked, the gardener retreats, but one night after a summer storm a tree crashes onto the hothouse and the birdcage is emptied. Later a tapping on his door reveals the woman and they spend the night together, she offering the gardener one wish in return for his kindness, but warns him to choose wisely.
The next day Mr Amicus comes looking for her and chases the gardener into the walled garden, where he uses his one wish unwisely and is forever trapped.
This is a wonderfully engrossing tale, full of magic and humour, of desire, greed, infatuation, ambition . . . all those tenets that sit well in cautionary tales. Here the story warns us to be careful of what we wish for, with the gardener finding himself trapped for life behind a wall.
Stunning illustrations by Rovina Cai, a masters graduate from the School of Visual Arts in New York, who now lives in Australia, parallel the text, sweeping the eyes across every page, the turning of which offers a new delight every time.
Fran Knight

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