I was rather stunned (and somewhat incredulous) when I realized that the author of A Little Princess wrote The Secret Garden because of the disparity in quality. Granted, I did read the former a couple years ago, and maybe I did not appreciate the style, but even if the style is better than I think, I find it is hard to get over a Elsie-Dinsmore-esque-hammer-you-over-the-head-she-is-perfect type of character, and I do not think such a type is compatible with good writing. Anyway.
I loved The Secret Garden. The style is charming and a touch mischievous—perfect for a book about children. I am not sure that meeting characters like Mary and Colin would be at all pleasant in real life, but the description and style made it delightful to read about them. I thought the other minor characters well-rounded and Dickon, a darling although perhaps the author mentioned his amiability and goodness a trifle too much.