Secret of the Forest

Wise Tales for a Happy Healthy Life

Children - Fable
163 Pages
Reviewed on 09/02/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Astrid Iustulin for Readers' Favorite

Secret of the Forest is the second volume written by M. R. Neer on Junah Cat and his path to knowledge. After our hero discovered the secret of the garden in the first installment of the series, he broadens the perspective with his next adventure. This time, Junah Cat and his friend Mo Mouse, accompanied by Philip Fox, go to the forest to discover its secret. Along the way, they meet many extraordinary animals such as deers, an owl, a bear, and also Mother Tree, the mother of all other trees in the forest. Each stage of the journey teaches a lesson that helps Junah Cat to come closer to the secret. But will he be able to find it out in the end?

I have always thought that children should understand the importance of knowledge. Yet, I did not imagine a book explaining this concept existed before I read Secret of the Forest. I am grateful to M. R. Neer for this work because there is so much wisdom in many passages and sentences that I confess I often paused while reading. Meditating on a children's book is something that has never happened to me, yet it was necessary because of the depth and value it contains. Junah Cat's journey into the forest is an excellent opportunity to explain concepts that help kids live a fulfilled and happy life. I encourage parents to discuss Secret of the Forest with their children and to read it more than once. Junah Cat's discovery is so precious that it does not have to be wasted.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Junah the cat is on another adventure, this time to find the secrets of the forest. He already discovered the secret of the garden, but now he is challenged to go further afield, to overcome unexpected obstacles like facing predators and even a fire. It’s a frightening journey, challenging, but full of purr-fect life lessons. Every time Junah learns something new, he shares a purr. Like “Learning is remembering.” And, “there are many secrets in life.” And another one about growing, a purr with many meanings: “We grow by stretching to more and more.” The purr that speaks most profoundly, in my opinion, is the purr about working together: “Do less and accomplish more by working together.”

M.R. Neer’s Middle-Grade novel, Secret of the Forest, continues on Junah’s prophetic journeys, which are more like quests of discovery. He has lots to learn, and lots of secrets to discover, and each secret will make him a strong personality, one with great wisdom. But is this journey into the forest to unearth the forest’s deepest secrets more than it appears? Is it an inner journey, one in which Junah will discover more about himself? As the cat and his friends journey deep into the forest, meeting one challenge after another, they learn together and grow stronger together. Complete with black-and-white drawings to heighten the building tension and the very prophetic purrs of wisdom, this story will certainly both entertain and inspire young readers as they follow Junah’s quest.

Kristine Zimmerman

Junah Cat and his friend Mo Mouse are back for another adventure. Secret of the Forest starts by briefly introducing the characters from the first tale. Junah lives with three sisters who challenge him by sending him off on quests to learn the secrets of the world around him. This time he ventures further afield with his friend Mo to discover the secret of the forest. Fortunately, the sisters provide him with a guide, Philip Fox, who soon becomes a friend. As they journey through the forest, they discover it is full of all kinds of living things, from owls, deer, and bear to Mother Tree. They also have many adventures and narrow escapes, each of which teaches them something about the forest.

M. R. Neer has created an engrossing forest world in the second Secret of the Forest. I found myself swept up in their adventures and enjoyed discovering the lessons and insights that Junah gained on the way. Gwenna Merriman has done a wonderful job with the black and white illustrations that begin each chapter. Secret of the Forest is not only an accessible chapter book for kids to read independently but would make an excellent read-aloud for younger children as well. Kids will be so excited to hear the continuing adventures of Junah and his companions that they will beg you to keep reading. They will also try to figure out the secret of the forest along with Junah. I am looking forward to more adventures with Junah and Mo.

Romuald Dzemo

Secret of the Forest is the second book in the series for children by M. R. Neer. While this story is written for children, animal lovers will find it irresistible. It is a tale about Junah Cat, an ordinary black-and-white cat, who is very curious. His three mysterious sisters -- with whom he lives -- send Junah Cat on a quest to uncover the secret of the garden. Aided by Maureen “Mo” Mouse, Junah succeeds in this mission. But then the sisters have another quest for him and this time, it is about growing and the stakes are higher. Can he succeed in this new adventure amidst the challenges that await him?

This is an absorbing story and the illustrations by Gwenna Merriman do justice to the story, catching the symbolic nature of the story and augmenting the entertainment value. The imagery is gorgeous and well-written, whether it is about Junah recalling being stuck in a web, roughed up by rosemary, or scratched by a possum. I adored the idea of stretching, which the author skillfully uses to describe growth. In fact, it is an image that has a lot of meaning to the young reader. After a successful first mission, Junah is getting comfortable but with the new challenge, a more difficult one, he suddenly comes to the realization that “Maybe trying new things is another way of stretching.” This phrase alone captures the philosophy that there is no growth without stretching beyond our comfort zone.

I read this book with my eight-year-old son; actually, he read it to me, and there are many things he loved about this fun book. He understands that friends are important in every quest and that teamwork matters --Junah cat and “Mo” Mouse are helped by Phillip Fox, Dean Deer, Mother Tree, Oliver Owl, and Bernie Bear. So, no one succeeds alone. Secret of the Forest is a great achievement and is filled with adventure and many things that children look for in a good book. M. R. Neer has written a fable that is realistic and speaks volumes to humans.

Vernita Naylor

Children's fables offer wisdom and practical lessons. This is why Aesop's fables like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Tortoise and the Hare and The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg are still classics. After reading any fables, children learn a lot about themselves and the decisions that they make through the characters depicted in the fables. As your child reads Tales of Secret of the Forest by M. R. Neer, they will not only learn about the secret of the next level in the forest that the three sisters, Sara, Duma, and Laka, posed to Junah. They will also learn about the importance of the journey, the adventures discovered, lessons learned along the way, and relationships that were created. During his last adventure, Junah realized how valuable his friends were and appreciated how he was able to see through their eyes and approach things in different ways. For this next secret adventure, he knew that he'd need some help again, so he asked his friend Maureen 'Mo' Mouse to join him as before. At the end of each chapter, Junah purrs with words of wisdom.

Secret of the Forest by M. R. Neer offers so many nuggets of wisdom but an important one is being open to seeing things from different perspectives and that stimulates growth. Children will learn that sometimes two heads are better than one, especially when making tough decisions. Your child will look forward to reading each chapter and learning about Junah and Mo's next secret adventure. "An adventure is not just a bunch of steps, but lots of learning with each step!” says Laka. Get your copy today and tell a friend.