Secret of the Garden

Wise Tales for a Happy Healthy Life

Children - Fable
137 Pages
Reviewed on 05/03/2018
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

Junah is a very special black and white cat. He was brought to life by three sisters: Sister Sara who was the planner who played the guitar, Sister Laka who watered the plants and sang, and Sister Duma who didn’t say very much, but when she did her voice boomed with resonance and purpose. The three sisters lived in a little house with a well-maintained garden. When they first brought Junah home, they explained to him that he had to explore the garden and find the secret of the garden. They didn’t give him any clues. Over time, Junah met and made many friends in the garden, including the plants. And he learned valuable lessons from each new friend and each new experience. Life is all about learning and absorbing all that knowledge so that it allows us to grow. Each new lesson was a purr for Junah.

M.R. Neer has written a charming children’s fantasy story in Secret of the Garden. This story would appeal to young readers and it provides valuable lessons on life and living, things like “Life is more than we can see” and “Outer depends on inner.” The stories follow the learning curve of one very smart cat, Junah, who makes friends everywhere he goes, even with a mouse. Each chapter has a new adventure, a new friend, a new lesson to learn and some valuable advice. Each chapter concludes with Junah’s purr, the lesson learned. There are pen-and-ink drawings to accompany each chapter, providing a visual of the adventure to follow. This is an excellent tool to teach young people the power of life, learning and growing, all through understanding the principles of Outer and Inner science.

Alyssa Elmore

A cat searches for answers to the mystery of his guardians' garden in the book, Secret of the Garden by M.R. Neer. Junah is a beautiful black and white cat, with a little more wisdom than the average kitty. Chosen by his animal guardians, the three sisters, Junah is said to have the ability to hold both the light and dark. As Junah matures, he is given a mission: discover the secret of the sisters' garden. Explaining that the garden has a secret that no one has been able to uncover, the sisters tell Junah that he can explore the magical garden to his heart's content, but he must not forget his purpose. Junah is excited to be able to leave the house, yet is a little apprehensive about his mission. As Junah starts searching for clues to the secret, he meets a new friend, Mo, who is a mouse. With some help from his new friend, Junah is ready to investigate. Together, they learn many new things and meet many new friends, leading Junah closer to the secret of the garden. But, the more Junah explores, the more his discoveries can distract him. Can Junah and his friends discover the secret of the garden?

The Tales of Peter Rabbit meets Aesop's Fables in the exquisitely written children's book, Secret of the Garden by M.R. Neer. Illustrated with beautiful drawings, this book is sure to keep children happily engaged for hours. I loved how the characters took on positive traits, making this book far superior to most children's stories and fables. I admired how the author wove beautiful lessons within each chapter, keeping the characters and stories amusing and appealing, yet wholesome and enhancing the learning aspects of the story. This book is a must-have in any children's library. I recommend this book to families and children aged five and up.

Jack Magnus

Secret of the Garden is a collection of nature fables for children written by M.R. Neer and illustrated by Gwenna Merriman. Junah Cat was an ordinary black and white cat, the kind of cat many would call a Tuxedo cat because of their distinctive markings. He lived in a house with three sisters, Sara, Laka and Duma, who looked after him and kept him safely indoors while he was a kitten. He loved playing in the house and watching the three sisters as they went about their business, but he did wonder about the world that he could see from the window. Sara and Laka were often actively busy with the garden. Sara was the designer who planned each of the four garden areas found in the yard, while Laka fed their plants by watering each of them precisely as they needed. One day, the sisters announced that Junah could go outdoors and explore the garden. They told him there was a secret out there, and that they wanted him to search it out. Junah wondered why they just didn’t tell him the secret, but they explained that it is best learned through experience.

M.R. Neer’s collection of nature fables for children, Secret of the Garden, is an enchanting look at the hidden and interwoven lives of all natural things. I loved following Junah as he conducted his explorations and learned a thing or two from every experience and encounter. While Aesop’s classic fables often came to mind as I read these stories, I was also reminded of the young King Arthur’s experiences in T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. Each transformation that his tutor, Merlin, had the young boy undergo led to a vital lesson and increased understanding, just as Junah’s experiences guide him. Gwenna Merriman brings that most amazing garden to life, and her portrayals of Junah, Mo and the other creatures Junah befriends are delightful. Secret of the Garden is most highly recommended.

Mamta Madhavan

Secret of the Garden by M.R. Neer introduces readers to Junah, an ordinary black-and-white cat who lives in a house with three sisters. He is different from other cats because of his natural curiosity and purr-sistence in learning. Junah’s adventures begin when the three sisters - Sara, Laka, and Duma - take him to their house by the garden. The stories in the book reveal how Junah discovers purr-fection and encourages children to look at life with a different outlook. Each story teaches readers a new thing that Junah has learned, helping them connect with the universe around them in a positive way, and to appreciate and enjoy life. Junah’s purr at the end of each chapter is insightful and thought-provoking and will encourage children to have a purpose in life so that they can grow up with good values.

“The Hum is all around and in,
To hear, to feel, and to BE in.”

The story highlights how everything around us can work purr-fectly when in harmony. Children will find Junah’s adventures in the garden exciting and, as they read through the stories, they will be able to understand his purr-ception of life and why he is different from others. The illustrations are adorable and delightful, like the stories and Junah, and what I like most about them is how they encourage young readers to believe more in morals, good values, and ethics as they lead their lives.

I like the way the author has woven the stories which finally lead to the Secret of the Garden with the help of Mo Mouse, Sandy Squirrel, Thomas Tortoise, Hannah Hummingbird, Harry Hedgehog, and Ralph Rabbit. The concept is fresh and unique and that makes it a must-read for children. The book is good for story-telling sessions, both at home and in classrooms, as it enables parents, tutors, and educators to instill good thoughts and values in children through the stories. Junah will encourage them to understand the importance of having a purpose in life. Though the stories are simple and short, they have many layers which can be interpreted by observing Junah’s actions and behavior and, most importantly, his discovery that all his friends can purr in some way.

Edith Wairimu

Junah, a black and white cat, lives with three sisters. Close to the house where they live is a beautiful garden that is intricately cultivated. In it, there are beautiful trees. Some of them include plum trees, orange trees, apricot trees, and almond trees among many others. Still, the garden contains a mysterious secret and the sisters are convinced that Junah is ‘the one’ who will discover the secret of the garden. Unlike any other secret, Junah cannot learn it just by being told about it. He has to discover it himself. Driven by the persistence to learn the secret, he sets out on his mission. Along the way, he makes friends who are willing to help him learn the ways of the garden. The friends include a mouse, rabbit, tortoise, hedgehog and a hummingbird. Join Junah in Secret of the Garden by M.R. Neer as he learns many interesting secrets and life lessons.

Secret of the Garden by M.R. Neer contains lovely themes and great lessons. Better still, is the practicality of the messages that the author conveys and their applicability in today’s world. Secret of the Garde contains stories of wisdom, enlightenment and wellness. Despite the complexity of the lessons contained in the book, M.R. Neer manages to present them in a way that young readers will understand and be able to apply in their lives. There is a lesson that the author names ‘Junah’s Purr’ contained in each chapter. In this regard, the stories were even more exciting as I tried to figure out what I would take away from reading each segment before reading the lesson at the end. All the stories are reflective, engaging, informative and definitely worth any young reader’s time!