Every night in the fishing village where he lives eleven-year-old David, a moon calf, sits alone by the shore watching the path of light that stretches across the sea until it almost touches the moon. Wondering where it goes, he decides to talk to Hans Krout, the cobbler, about it and learns that the cobbler has been out on the moon path himself. That same night Hans takes him to the shore and ties to teach him how to cross but David gets scared and falls into the water. Then one day he hears the voice of the Moon Angel down by the shore. Moon Angel makes people happy when they're sad, but he also takes something away from them. He tells David that he, Moon Angel, is the Master Cobbler, and David should have Hans bring him to the moon path again. That same night Hans and David make another trip down to the moon path, and this time David crosses it. Once he's on the other side he discovers that the path leads to a magical world behind the moon where David's adventure begins. When he enters the magical world, the first thing he discovers is the Moon House where the Man in the Moon lives. It's dark and quiet, and every time David looks out a window, he sees something different. A few days later he discovers the Moon Garden. It's a peaceful place with a lot of children living in it. The children begin talking and playing with David, and they don't make fun of him like the children in the village where he lives, because they're all moon calves too. He leaves the Moon Garden, but the Man in the Moon decides that David will be allowed to go there for three days every month. During one of his visits he meets a girl named Phyllis, and they start to become really good friends. They do everything together. But five months later, the guardian of the children tells David that he can't come to the Moon Garden again because he will soon be 12 years old. Children can't live there once they're 12 years old because they have to learn how to become a grown man or woman. She also tells him that Phyllis is a princess, and that he was really sent there to find the Wonder Box and the Know All Book in order to bring them back to the brown earth again. The guardian says he must first battle a giant and then see an old woman in a red petticoat, who will tell him what to do next. Then while in the Moon House one day, David sees the Moon Angel, and passes behind him. Now David finds himself on the shore of the sea ten years in the future as a grown man. He goes to the old woman's cottage and learns that Adam and Eve lived in the Moon Garden, where the Moon Angel gave them the Wonder Box. He told them that it held the greatest joy in the world, the Know All Book, but not to open the box because, if they do, sorrow will come upon them. However, a few days later they opened it and end up captives of the Iron Giant in his Iron Castle. In order for David to find the Wonder Box and the Know All Book, he'll have to travel to the Iron Castle too, but he'll have to outsmart the giant in order to succeed. Will David win the battle, and get the Wonder Box and the Know All Book back to the brown earth? I liked this book because it was very magical and exciting. If I had been David, I would have been sad to leave the Moon Garden, and scared to battle the giant. If you enjoy reading books about magical places, THE GARDEN BEHIND THE MOON is an excellent choice! --- (...)
I bought two copies of this book, one to keep and one to share, because I loved it so much. I've been a Tolkien fan for 34 years, and have tried mostly in vain since then to find other fantasy stories I could love. I suspect, though I don't know, that this story may have influenced Tolkien (it predates him.) If you loved Roverandom and Smith of Wooton Major and Book of Lost Tales, you'll love this haunting story. One thing I especially liked is that the hero of the story, though it's not entirely clear, seems to be a Downs child. It is clear that he was modeled after Pyle's own son, who died young. This would be an inspiring story for a child who is a little different from other children.
I've always loved Pyle's The Merrie Adventures of Robin Hood and was disappointed in how inferior this book is. [...]BR> I have one major and several minor objections. The big one is the (typically Victorian?) view he presents of Death as good and kind. It appears from the dedication that he was trying to comfort himself for the death of a young son, but I still think death needs to be recognized as an enemy. Minor annoyances include the disjointedness of the plot until halfway through, the simplistic, portentous language (with repitition of such phrases as "this is not nonsense after all"), and addressing the reader as "little child". (I'm middle-aged and find this last merely annoying - an older child would probably hate it.) There are some good things - the idea that seemingly foolish, dreamy people may be wiser than more businesslike ones, the lyrical beauty of some passages, the fairy tale that comprises the second half, and the plot twist at the end. In one place he may even be adapting the Highland legend of the washer woman foretelling disaster in battle to a totally new use, which would be cool - then again it may be a co-incidence. African American readers may object to a rather patronizing but well-meant story about a slave woman, who is repeatedly called a "poor black woman". He does describe the horrors of the slave trade (though not too graphically for children over 7 or so) if you can stand the syrup. Extreme romantics may like this book, but I didn't much. It's gloppy.
Howard Pyle may be one of my favorite authors of all time and I've never outgrown this book. It is something different to children and adults so there is always a new angle to pick up on. A beautiful story.
I bought this book for my son after discovering and enjoying Howard Pyle's stories of King Arthur. The Garden Behind the Moon is without question the best children's book I have ever read. It teaches some important concepts in a way that young children can understand: the reason why David cannot remain in the moon garden, how and why David must do the task he was sent to do, how David completes the difficult but necessary transition from little boy to grown man and how he ultimately brings the Know-All book containing its wisdom about the greatest sorrow and greatest joy to earth.
This book along with the Wonder Clock and the King Arthur stories have made my son and I Howard Pyle fans. Today's books for children are disappointing in comparison.