by Mordicai Gerstein
Long ago, in a land simply called the Old Country, a young girl went after the fox that was stealing her family's chickens. She found herself deep in the forest, in a strangely magical place where the animals could talk. The animals demanded proof that the fox was guilty, and quickly arranged a trial where a spider was the judge, and the jury a crowd of birds. Although her grandmother had warned her never to look long into the eyes of a fox, she did- and found herself transformed into the fox's body, while the beast ran off with hers. Of course she set off at once to get her own shape back, but it's a hard task. For one thing, although she can speak to all the animals, people no longer understand her, only hear a fox's yapping. For another, her country is being ravaged by war, and her own family uprooted by the violence and suspicion. Her only hope is the assistance of a silly chicken, her pet cat who wants to be a lawyer, a bear that escaped from a circus and a shape-shifting forest sprite. Together they must navigate the horrors of war while seeking to find her family and convince the fox to trade places once again. By the end of the story, experiencing life in the fox's body has profoundly affected the girl, and she is surprised to find that choices she once thought were clear are now difficult to make. The Old Country is a wonderful meld of fairy tale and fantasy elements, a story of wartime survival and one little girl's search for herself. It's a bit grim at times, but a lively and captivating tale.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 130 pages, 2005
Fis-hing for Anthea