Mayhem in the Moongarden

Children - Grade 4th-6th
150 Pages
Reviewed on 12/02/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite

Mayhem in the Moongarden, by E. L. Seer, is a magical, mysterious children's book for 4th-6th graders, and even the young at heart will enjoy it. Filled with interesting characters and a compelling plot, this story has all the bells and whistles that attract young imaginations. The plot begins with wedding plans, and involves Grubner Trowel, a dwarf who yearns for bigger responsibility and admiration from Mildred Moongarden, his mentor, but does he have what it takes? He finds out when Mildred leaves on business and he has to watch over Moongarden. The Ravishers bring mayhem, since the Moon Orchard feeds everyone, and it's up to Grubner to deal with the threat before Mildred comes back home to total destruction.

Seer is really two authors, and they definitely have their finger on the pulse of what makes young readers happy. Such imagination and cleverness are at play in this story about Caretakers and intelligent beings. The alien-like plant life comes alive in this intriguing world Seer has built. The story is full of rich detail, vivid imagery, and an even pace that will have children flipping through the pages. There are valuable lessons embedded in the story, but aren't really overt unless you're looking for them. It's generally an entertaining book with likeable characters and a plot of conflict and urgency. The writing is lyrical and fanciful, but still grounded in some reality, which makes it a personal and relatable story. The sense of humor will be well-appreciated, and the classic good against evil theme is a reliable and enjoyable vehicle. What I like about this book is the variety of personalities in the characters, which come across as identifiable without being cliched.

The illustrations help bring the story to life, and, with all the activity going on with the characters, you may think this would be a difficult book for young readers to follow, but it turns out to be a breezy read that should hold most young attention spans. Readers will appreciate the introduction of the characters in the beginning of the story, as it helps lay the groundwork for the plot that follows. If you or a child you know has ever imagined the secret lives of gardens, plants, and otherworldly creatures, Mayhem in the Moongarden, by E. L. Seer, is one book to satisfy your curiosity.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

There is a magical garden world, mysterious, almost other-worldly. It’s situated somewhere within our own world where the guardians can take care of the human race and protect it from evil. Grubner Trowel lives in this mysterious garden world. The fourth of seven dwarf siblings, he and his brothers have endured years of teasing about being part of Snow White’s troop of seven dwarfs. Grubner doesn’t mind being compared to the popular human fairy tale. He likes fairy tales. In fact, when he goes off to do his chores, he enjoys singing the Snow White dwarfs’ theme song, “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work I go.” But Grubner wants more than anything to be taken more seriously, to be given more responsibilities so he can prove himself to his mentor, Mildred Moongarden. When the opportunity arises, however, he is met with troubling circumstances which involve a nasty infestation of ravishers – they eat everything. If Grubner doesn’t do something fast, his chance of proving himself will be tarnished forever and the Moongarden will be demolished.

E.L. Seer’s early chapter book, Mayhem in the Moongarden, is a charming, engaging story that will attract early readers. The black and white line drawing illustrations are clever and help move the story along. Written in a compassionate tone, much like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, this story has the telling elements of fantasy that appeal to young readers. There’s a little bit of fairy tale and a whole lot of mystery and problem-solving that will keep young readers attentive to the very end. I love all the garden references, especially the names – very gardeny type of names: Grubner (from grubs), Trowel (suggesting a garden tool, but also a tool used to smooth things like plaster). All great metaphors. And, of course, the one word in the title, Moongarden, suggests some sort of garden. There are other interesting characters with garden names, like Rosebud. Also, the author interweaves a lot of garden words in descriptive narrative passages as well as dialogue and other forms of communication: “the sun sprouts” and “harvest a blossoming plan.” A comfortable, entertaining and sometimes humorous read.

Ray Hosler

Mayhem in the Moongarden by E.L. Seer takes place in a mysterious world within our world. It seems there is a coalition of intelligent beings known as Caretakers watching over humans, hidden and unknown to us, kind of like fairies. The Moongarden where the creatures live provides wondrous, otherworldly plant life they need to survive on earth. Established by Mildred Moongarden, she has help in maintaining the garden from Grubner Trowel and his six brothers, who look a lot like garden gnomes. Mildred asks Grubner to watch over the garden while she’s gone to prepare for a wedding (between two trees!). Mayhem ensues. Grubner is anxious to please and show that he can accept responsibility, a well-intentioned learning lesson for children. Ravishers descend on the garden and begin eating everything in sight. Grubner enlists the help of his brothers and Wordly Pagemore, the keeper of the Caretaker Arts & Literature archive, to stop the Ravishers. Another learning moment shows children the value of libraries. The rest of the book describes the many unique and sometimes bizarre plants living in the garden, and Grubner’s struggles to eradicate the Ravishers.

Mayhem in the Moongarden by E.L. Seer (husband-and-wife team Eric and Lori) aims to entertain and educate readers between age 7 and 12, and succeeds on both counts. E.L. Seers’ writing succeeds masterfully when they use alliteration to engage young readers. For example: “That mush-mouthed-morph-dork never keeps his trap shut.” The quirky names of creatures and plants spice up the reading: “dwindle-berries,” “Mimicking Melon trees,” “Wendy the Withering Froo,” and “Squid Blossoms,” to name a few. Action and dialogue keep young readers interested as the story unfolds. The methods used to deal with the nasty Ravishers will delight children, especially the unexpected ending. The book is liberally illustrated with black and white drawings of journeyman quality. They contribute nicely to telling the story to young readers. Mayhem in the Moongarden teaches the values of cooperation, education, and never giving up during difficult times. Its whimsical, quirky, sometimes bizarre characters create a world in the Moongarden that children will enjoy for years to come.

Susan van der Walt

Mildred Moongarden (or Old Moonshoes) had to leave on urgent business, and so she put Grubner Trowel in charge while she was away. Since Grubner has been working with Old Moonshoes for a while, he knows how to tend to the Moongarden. But before he can start working on his lengthy to-do list, he gets a nasty surprise. Who has destroyed so much of the Moongarden? There was now indeed Mayhem in the Moongarden! The Ravishers have discovered the lovely garden, and not even with the help of his six brothers can Grubner get rid of them. Only once he finds out their surprising weakness did he manage to make the Ravishers flee, but can he restore order to the garden before Mildred Moongarden returns. Find out in Mayhem in the Moongarden by E.L Seer.

E.L Seer quickly draws young readers of ages 8 to 12 into the narrative with unique language and the description of the Moongarden by involving all the senses. They will enjoy this fantasy story's colorful and eccentric characters, clearly illustrated with simple line sketches. Together with Grubner, I was furious at the Ravishers for their destruction of the Moongarden. But also at Grubner for refusing help and insisting that he had everything under control! It is very frustrating to see how none of Grubner's plans succeeded, even with all his research and the help of his brothers. But we rejoice when he figures out the Ravisher's weakness and gains new confidence in himself. And the best part is when he discovers he was Mildred's first choice to tend to the garden, and not the only one available, as he thought.

Natalie Soine

Mayhem in the Moongarden by E. L. Seer is set in a magical realm where humans are protected from evil by “Caretakers” who come from Atlantis, Ceres, Hades, and Zephyr. The Moongarden offers everything that the caretakers need to survive and was created by Mildred Moongarden – nicknamed Old Moonshoes and loved by everyone. Mrs. Moongarden must harvest Linnie’s dwindle-berries (an Itsy Bitzy bush) to contain the growing Skyclimber. Rosebud is Mrs. Moongarden’s helper and Irvin McGillicutty is the keeper of The Residence and assists the Caretaker Headmistress. One of the caretakers, Grubner Trowel, is tasked with taking care of the Moongarden but the Moon Orchard is threatened when Ravishers (black pumpkin-shaped creatures) infest the Moongarden. Gruggins McGhee investigates the case and Grubner’s brothers help him get rid of the Ravishers. The Moon Orchard supplies the Caretaker’s food requirements and must be saved. The Creeping Tangler barrier wall was another of Mrs. Moongarden’s wondrous creations, designed to trap any vermin infesting the Moon Orchard. Grubner must use all his skills and knowledge to get rid of the Ravishers and restore the Moongarden in time for a wedding.

Mayhem in the Moongarden is beautifully illustrated with stunning pictures and descriptions of each character. The story is written in delightful language including magical plants with creative names. The story also teaches an important lesson for everyone – if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything. Author E. L. Seer does a fantastic job of creating the Moongarden and all its inhabitants. I especially loved the names of the plants and creatures - very creative. Overall, a great story recommended to adults and children.