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The Old Country

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  319 ratings  ·  66 reviews
From the winner of the 2004 Caldecott Medal comes a memorable new work, a novel of singular insight and imagination that transports readers to the Old Country, where "all the fairy tales come from, where there was magic -- and there was war." There, Gisella stares a moment too long into the eyes of a fox, and she and the fox exchange shapes. Gisella's quest to get her girl ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Roaring Brook Press (first published May 1st 2005)
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The Old Country has a bit of The Princess Bride feel to it as an elder relative recounts her experience as a young girl before immigrating to The New World. What listener wouldn't be intrigued when the story teller says that in the Old country, "I was a little girl, and where I was a fox." And no, not a foxy lady. A fox. +1 for the shape shifter aspect.

The fairy tale brings a clash of the real world and the magic world (both being destroyed by evil). All of the human characters are wonderfully s
Jun 08, 2008 Lucy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: rena p ginsbery ray, this one's for you
Shelves: kidlit, fairytales
Gisella's family lives in the war-torn Old Country. They are simple farmers living simple lives, until her brother is conscripted into the army, and a fox steals some of their chickens. Determined to fix the little she can, Gisella promises to hunt down and kill the theiving fox. And before she goes, her Great-Aunt Tanteh warns her, "never look too long in the eyes of a fox." And so Gisella enters the woods, in which not everything is what it seems and she can understand the speech of the animal ...more
This book had such great potential and easily could have been fantastic. However, it totally failed to do so. Instead of giving it 1 star, I gave it 2, because of the interesting idea of two characters switching bodies.
That was the only thing that held my interest.
Evocative story about the "Old Country" and how magic became relegated to the realm of story. Has the feel of a fairy tale from Eastern Europe.

more here
Feb 12, 2015 Nafiza marked it as middle-grade-books-to-read
Shelves: middle-grade
Oh my God, I love the cover.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ms. Patterson
I read THE OLD COUNTRY on the recommendation of one of my students. I have to admit it's an original story and I quite liked the ending. I won't spoil it here, but suffice it to say I liked how the ending wasn't nice and sweet.

The story begins with the Great-Grandmother Gisella arriving for a visit and gifting the narrator with her violin. She then proceeds to tell a story of her life in the old country, how she escaped from the war there and how she used to be a fox. The rest of the book is Gis
Andy Shuping
The description of this book sounded so appealing--a young girl stares into a fox's eyes too long and they switch places that I had to give it a read. And while Gerstein creates a fantastic modern fairytale, one that explains where other tales came from, and a surprise ending where all of the characters make decisions that drastically change their live...I found myself disappointed in the overall book.

Perhaps I was expecting too much for this short tale, but I was just looking for a bit more tha
I'm too lazy to try and describe this book. The book was ok...the audio recording was fairly entertaining. I liked the description in the following review:

From School Library Journal
Grade 3-6–The bulk of this tale takes place in the pseudo-mythical Old Country. At the present time, Great Grandmother Gisella tells her disbelieving young relative the story about how she had been both a girl and a fox. The complicated telling begins, intermingling rather gruesome civil war images, animal tales, Al
This book was recommended as a read-alike for Graceling, of all things, and I couldn't disagree with that recommendation more. Graceling's appeal lies primarily with its action-packed plot and strong, compelling, sympathetic main character. The Old Country, on the other hand, is modeled from traditional fairy tales and uses those tales to explore the issues of family, humanity, and warfare. It's an elegant little story, in its own way, but fans of Graceling should not read it looking for more of ...more
Jessica Harmon
I thought this book was going to be more folkloric and less...single-minded? I get that war is bad. And racist wars are even worse. Okay. But this book doesn't even really give a good resolution to the problem. I thought the twist with the fox girl at the end was the most interesting part. Overall, I think it was trying to hard to be both a folktale and an anti-genocide fable. And it failed at the folktale part, which was the more interesting idea.
This book starts off strong and ends with a breathtaking wallop. However, the middle is muddled with questionable ethics, an Alice-in-Wonderland-esque kangaroo court proceeding and a disarmingly polar look at the effects of war, at turns both blithe and bleak. There is also a gaping plot hole regarding the great grandmother's telling of the story at the beginning when Giselle first set out, versus the big reveal at the end.
The audio version was like listening to an old storytelling grandmother enchant you with her stories. I liked the little twist at the end, too. Since this won the Caldecott, I'd bet the illustrations are wonderful. I'll have to look at the print version soon.
This was an unusual fairy tale style story that read a great deal like a real fairy tale. It was a very quick read and it seemed very allegorical rather than realistic. At the same time it was dark, dealing with genocide, among other disturbing themes. I enjoyed the many animals included in the tale. I think my biggest criticism is the way many events were glossed over extremely swiftly. This goes along with the allegorical feeling of the story. However, it seemed a bit rushed in places and I fe ...more
JJ Lynne
The idea behind the novella is far more interesting than the execution of it. Perhaps if it had been allowed to ferment and develop, the writing itself would have been better. The book simply did not keep my interest, though I kept hoping that it would. There are elements of other texts that trickle in - a few (likely subconscious) allusions to Charlotte's Web and The Chronicles of Narnia, but they fail to be as effective as the original classics. It is worth it to get your hands on this book ju ...more
Such a beautiful story. I practically cried at the ending
Rachel Ernst
This is a great quick read for young and old alike. It is reminiscent of folk tales passed from generation to generation. The writing style is loose, and doesn't get boggled down with too many details, like any storytelling. The story revolves around a little girl who gets tricked into trading places with a fox, it just so happens that war is waging all around them, and in the process she must rescue her family as well as regain her original form. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys folk ...more
Chase Shields
It was years ago that I read this book, but one thing that this book planted inside of me was the incredible/fearful feeling of the sounds of distant warfare. I've never really known why the thunders of explosions, cannon fire and the pops of gun fire from a deep distance has fascinated me so much, but the feeling in the thoughts of them make me think so deeply it's difficult to get out of the memorizing trance of my imagination.

This book is great for if you want an interesting, original fairy-
zaCk S
fantastic novella for kids. i plan on recommending it to all 1 children i know. may be a little challenging for kids under 9 or 10 (mainly because of vocabulary), but very cute. could be considered a little too preachy (in its anti-war/anti-racism - which i think is prolly a good kind of preachy), but the older i get, the more forgiving i am of that kind of thing. classic fish-out-of-water story and great fairy-tale-ish structure. seems almost specifically designed for adaptation by hayao miyaza ...more
Dec 13, 2007 Rah~ri rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: shape shifters of all shapes and sizes!

Read for my niece a while ago.
She is helping me write this as we speak.
Thought she may be a shape shifter of sorts
and thought she should read up on such things!
I was right.
She takes after me!
She says this is a great book
and I should put it in with my favorite books.
Also she likes monkeys.
She likes this book very much because it is true (it's not!)
and is about Foxes !

MONKEYS RULE!!!!!!!!!!!
Kristina Lareau
The combination of folkloric tradition with the themes of persecution reminiscent of WWII, this book is rich with characterizations, literary motifs, and ideas about the importance of the body.

The frame narrative of this novel allows the fantastic elements of this novel to feel more realistic since it is told almost as a folk tale. The characters and the premise are well-developed and and well-written.

I highly recommend this book!
i have just started reading this book i read a couple pages so far but i like it,and the cover is very pretty,
i got this book becuse whene i read the back i read a sentence that made my really want to read, it it made me think a lot.

this book is about a girl she gose hunting for a fox that took her chikens well thits what she thinks. they can all under stand each other so they went on trial that is how far got
Okay, it was a nice concept but really poor execution. Cute but a failed attempt at fantasy...if that was even what the author was going for. My rating says it was okay. Not great, not awful. Just okay. I wouldn't put it at the top of your to-read list but it was decent if your bored and there is nothing else. Which is basically how I ended up reading it. I found it among my mother's desk papers.
Feb 18, 2008 Sophie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: yaya
i am reading this fantasy book right now. I like the way the story was set up- a grandmother telling it, every now and then an interruption from the grandaughter. A war is destroying all magic in the forests as well as the towns when a sly fox switches places with a girl. she has to try to get her body and life back, even if that means being in the enemies hands. excellent book.
A fairly short book. Started out cute, but ended up being largely about the war instead of about the characters themselves and their adventures in each others' bodies. Could have been so much sweeter of a story! Also, the end seems to discount our personal choices for good or evil, indicating that people just are what they are. Not awful, but not really worth reading.
From the winner of the 2004 Caldecott Medal comes a memorable new work, a novel of singular insight and imagination that transports readers to the Old Country, where "all the fairy tales come from, where there was magic -- and there was war." There, Gisella stares a moment too long into the eyes of a fox, and she and the fox exchange shapes. Gisella's quest to get her girl
This was a creative book that was a little bit magical and a little bit mysterious. It deals with some of the harsh realities of war through a kind of fairy tale. There were a few scenes I wouldn't want to read to my children, one character has to sleep under a man killed by hanging and gather the dew off his body! But it is a short, well done story.
Mambabasang Miong
The Old Country – a story of war between the great nations of Surland and Norland, the oppression of the people called the Crags, the adventures of a fox named Flame and a girl named Gisella, the court of law headed by a white spider with a jury of birds, a dancing bear, a crystal palace, a golden egg – is just an ordinary fantasy childrens’ novel.
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED. fox & girl, cat [s] 6 22 Jun 03, 2014 02:15PM  
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Mordicai Gerstein is the author and illustrator of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, winner of the Caldecott Medal, and has had four books named New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year. Gerstein was born in Los Angeles in 1935. He remembers being inspired as a child by images of fine art, which his mother cut out of Life magazine, and by children’s books from the library: “I looked ...more
More about Mordicai Gerstein...
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