“It was early morning. Tilly turned over in her bed. As she moved her feet, she heard the rustle of the Christmas stocking. She moved her toes again, to feel the delicious weight of it. She reached out for the clock on the bedside table. Six o’clock. It was still too early to wake up Mom and Dad, to go rushing to their room to open her presents.
She turned on the bedside light, reached down, and pulled the stocking up so she could see it properly. It was stuffed to the top with small packages all wrapped up in shiny paper with silver stars. Tilly pulled at the top one, undid one end, and then put it back, suddenly guilty. She must wait for morning.
The bubble of happiness inside her was growing bigger and stronger. It was Christmas. Mom would be coming downstairs for once, to be with her and Dad all day. And she had a new friend at last. A girl a little like her, and a little bit like Ally . . .
Tilly lay quietly in bed, waiting for the day to begin.” ~Tilly’s Moonlight Garden by Julia Green.
Tilly’s Moonlight Garden is the definition of a quiet, gentle fantasy. Not much really happens. A little girl named Tilly moves to a new house, leaving her best friend Ally behind. Tilly’ mother is having a difficult pregnancy, lots of bed rest, and Tilly is worried about her mum and and about making friends at her new school. Led by a wild fox, Tilly finds a magical secret garden behind her new home, and she meets a mysterious friend there.
It was never clear to me how old Tilly was in the book, and that was a bit bothersome. She acts rather young, maybe seven, but she also thinks that others would judge her too old to play with a dollhouse, maybe ten or eleven? She’s a lonely little girl, however old she is, and it’s also not really clear whether the fantastical events (a friendly fox and a ghostly girl) in the story are real or just a figment of Tilly’s fertile imagination. I tend to think probably meant to be real, but it’s sort of left open to the reader’s judgment.
Young readers with the patience to see this one through will find some delightful echoes of Philippa Pearce’s classic Tom’s Midnight Garden and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Those who are looking for fast action and thrills had better look elsewhere. Anglophiles like me might also enjoy this very British story of a lonesome little girl and her fantasy friends in a secret garden.