Tilly's Moonlight Garden (originally Tilly's Moonlight Fox in the UK), by Julia Green (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2012, middle grade), is a lovely little gentle, old-fashioned timeslipish story.
Tilly is somewhat daunted by her new home--it's old, and big and strange. And even stranger, and more scary, is the fact that her mother isn't well. A new baby is on its way, and Tilly's mom must spend almost all of her time in bed...with little energy to spare for Tilly. But in the night garden Tilly finds the perfect distraction.
There is the fox, waiting to have her own cubs in a safe, moonlight den. And there in the moonlight, Tilly meets Helen, a mysterious girl who joins her in making a den of their own, a secret hiding place. Tilly only sees Helen at night...and though once she watches Helen go home to her own house, in the daylight she can't find it again.
In the meantime, worry about her mother grows, and though her father tries his best, it's not the same, and there's the horrid shyness of a new school. But Tilly's grandma comes, which is a comfort, and Tilly makes a new daylight friend, who shares her appreciation of the old dollhouse found up in the attic, a relic of the girl who lived in Tilly's house long ago. And at last it is Christmas, and the new baby comes, and the fox has her kits...and Tilly has no need for the moonlight garden anymore.
It is a book full of lovely little bits of detail and description, and the moonlight garden in particular was a joy to read about (although the dollhouse was a close second). Tilly's inner turmoil and anxiety are rendered beautifully too--it's clear just how anxious she is, but the reader isn't beaten over the head with it!
I would have liked a bit more of the timeslip part of things--the magic is definitely there, but it is more a background to Tilly's reality than it is the center of the story. I wanted more about Helen! Till never has a Moment of Realization about her night-time friend, and it's never explicitly Explined just who she is, and though this is just fine, as sometimes a bit of mystery is a nice thing, and there are plent of clues, I did want a bit more. I wondered whether she was actually a ghost, but since Tilly does actually see her house, it felt more timeslipish too me--a rather particularly British type of timeslip-ness, I think, in which the connection between people in the past and present is more important than any adventures that might result.
In any event, this is a perfect one to give to a sensitive young reader, appreciative of books in which mood and description trump plot! I would have loved it when I was eight or so, and managed to enjoy it very much indeed even as a cynical grown up.
And here are some other blog reviews:
Books Beside My Bed
Sharon the Librarian
Jean Little Library
(review copy received from the publisher for Cybils Award consideration)