|Howard Pyle: The Garden Behind the Moon|
(Trade Paperback), ISBN 0-765-34242-1
Nineteenth century writer Howard Pyle creates a mystical, melancholy world in Tor/Starscape 's reprint of his classic children's book, The Garden Behind the Moon.
Seemingly written as a metaphoric tale of a child's death (perhaps his own child), Pyle dedicates the tale to "The Little Boy in the Moon Garden." From that early point, the story takes on a somber tone as it relates the life of David, a boy who lives in a small fishing village and watches and wonders about the moon. Able to see past a person's exterior, David makes friends with the most foolish of persons and thereby becomes privy to the secrets of the moon.
One night, following the advice of his simple friend, David encounters the Moon Angel and the Man in the Moon. He travels to the Moon House and the Moon Garden and learns about the people that pass through. Ultimately, David remains at the Moon House while a quiet David takes his place on earth. The sorrowful tone continues and escalates until the point that it switches gears and takes on the appearance of a fairy tale (complete with hero, princess, a wonder box and a know-all book).
This book proves confusing and unfortunately eerie with its midstream shift and motifs of death, as well as its presentation of death as a kind of wonder. While it portrays forward-thinking notions about people who are "foolish" and what they may have to offer, it also demonstrates old-fashioned views and somewhat didactic Victorian ideas on minorities and children.
In summation, the book proves an interesting relic of its period, one best read with a discussion group to fully explore the possibilities of the book's intent and merit.
Lynne Marie Pisano
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