Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Old Country” as Want to Read:
The Old Country
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Old Country

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  503 ratings  ·  95 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  503 ratings  ·  95 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Old Country
Ken Mueller
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
THE OLD COUNTRY by Mordicai Gerstein

"Gisella knew this girl. She was so very familiar that it took a moment to realize who she was. Gisella was looking at herself. She looked down. The grass was suddenly close, and instead of hands, she had two little black fox feet. Behind her she found a long, white-tipped fox tail. The fox had changed places with her. This was what Great-Aunt Tanteh had warned her of. While Gisella looked into her eyes, the fox had slipped into Gisella's body, and now Gisella
Jedi JC Daquis
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Kenya Starflight
Dec 30, 2017 rated it liked it
I've always been entranced by fairy tales, and by retellings of old fairy tales. "The Old Country" didn't seem to be a retelling of a specific tale, but rather the author creating a story with the feel and language of an old folk tale from the titular "old country"... but also mixing it with real-world events, blending the fantastic with the grit of the real world. This can be done well (the best examples I can think of are Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child and To The Bright Edge of the World and Cath ...more
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The audiobook is absolutely stunning and this story’s parallels to our world in all its fantastic beauty and brutality questions what it means to be human in a world that is often mad.
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was hesitant about buying this book. The edition I got was part of a collection called "Books with a message" and that put me off right away since I don't appreciate having a lesson pushed onto me while reading, but the description was compelling enough and the price very affordable so I took it home with me.

As I read I wondered where this Old Country was located and if it was going to be named as a real place. Why? Because the whole thing rang very similar to the happenings of a World War (se
Oct 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-childrens
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. ...more
Jacob Williams
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This does a good job of maintaining the mystique necessary for a fairy-tale novella to work, with lovely writing and just the right amount of whimsy. The audiobook narrator’s creative voicing adds to the charm.
Jul 01, 2012 marked it as tbr-middle-grade
Oh my God, I love the cover.
Dec 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Short and sweet but nothing spectacular.
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
This is one of those audiobooks that I would be happy to listen to over and over. Tovah Feldshuh was an absolutely wonderful narrator, with all her evocative voices for the different characters, and I loved Gerstein's writing style. There is magic in the Old Country, and there is magic in this story.

I liked all the characters, and while I wish that Gisella's family had been a bit more fleshed-out, I also appreciated that it wasn't important to the story. The magic and the war were both a little
Laurie (AFozenBookParadise)
This fable isn't just about a girl and a fox who switch bodies. it about so much more. It's about the magic in our world, and how thing like war and lies can kill the magic and twist our world out of shape. It's about being comfortable with who you are and that it's okay to become someone else, or in other words, to evolve and grow up.

There's a nostalgic feel and innocence to this story that is odd. It's modern yet old-fashioned at the same time. While there are kings, queen, and peasants, wars
Marcus White
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Gerstein weaves a lovely tale here. Gisella's experience and transformation in the forest is engrossing and amusing. The end perhaps borrowed too much from a few other iconic stories/movies, but altogether it is a magical and simple quest for dear family and identity in a world complicated by fools. I am looking forward to promoting this book along with Maybe a Fox by Appelt this coming school year. Both are children's novels about enchanted foxes, and both books have themes pertaining to uncont ...more
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
"In these woods, things may not be what they seem. Things change, now it's this, then it's that. Look closely, be careful, and never look too long into the eyes of a fox."

Really enjoyed this beautiful little fairytale of shape-shifters and talking animals. The setting of this story does a great job of weaving magic both in the real world and in the "invisible world" described in the story. It also eloquently describes the effects of the modern world and it's wars on the natural world and magic.
Samantha Obermeyer
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This story is told using easy language and greatly simplified concepts, as I expected of a children’s book. However, as usually surprises me with children’s books that touch on darker topics, this story dives into the gruesome realities of war that can be witnessed by a child. The story has a Pan’s Labyrinth feel to it where you are never quite sure if the fantasy is an escape or if the entire story is meant to be a tall tale.

David Rough
This interesting fairy tale/fable has the tone of an ancient storyteller filled with insight and fantasy. I am not sure of the target audience for this book – it has a pinch of a children’s book, a shake of young adult, and an ounce of middle grade. I am not a great fan of fantasy so this was not a great read for me.

My rating is not very high because I just didn’t like the story that much. The characters were strange, the plot was rather bizarre, and the messages were obtuse. The ending was qui
Christina Reid
Part-fable, part-fairy tale, this story follows a girl as she swaps places with a fox and goes on an adventure to save her family as her country is torn apart by war. Definitely some interesting ideas and some strangely moving parts (e.g. the silent testimony of the dead at the trial) but overall felt a little disjointed as the build-up had very little to do with the resolution.
Corrie Hammons
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: all-time-faves
I really loved this book. It reminded me of old Disney movies and fables we read in school. I loved the theme of karma, and how the forest and the animals sort of strikes back because of the war. Gisella was a really lovely main character who was smart, competent, and fleshed out. Just a really, really lovely fantasy book.
Feb 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
My 7-year-old picked this out and could easily read it. Though the reading level fit her, the subject matter was too mature. War, the main character coming upon her countrymen hanging from a tree, and many other disturbing subjects for a 2nd grader. The subject matter would better fit a YA audience.

One of those humans-are-terrible stories. Well written, but depressing.
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids-books
Simply wonderful fairy tale. 🧚‍♀️ not sure when last I read such an enchanting and sad story. Drawings would have put the book over the top though the story on its own earned these ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Sarah Easley
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was a good story, but it was hard to really connect to it. All telling, no showing.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, mg
What a perfectly beautiful, beautifully written book! About a fox who longs to have fingers with which to play the violin and tricks a girl into trading bodies with her in time of war.
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Too weird for me
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book would be great to pair with other animal/human tales such as "Maybe a Fox." ...more
« previous 1 3 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Unusual Suspects (The Sisters Grimm #2)
  • Greenwitch (The Dark is Rising, #3)
  • The Fairy-Tale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm #1)
  • The Bellmaker (Redwall, #7)
  • The Underneath
  • The Blue Djinn of Babylon (Children of the Lamp, #2)
  • The Green Smoothie Prescription: A Complete Guide to Total Health
  • Diary of a Fairy Godmother
  • Starcross (Larklight, #2)
  • Time-Saving Charm Quilts
  • The Tail of Emily Windsnap (Emily Windsnap, #1)
  • The Castle Corona
  • Kringle
  • Different Daughters: A Book by Mothers of Lesbians
  • A Bone to Pick (Aurora Teagarden, #2)
  • Rapunzel's Revenge (Rapunzel's Revenge, #1)
  • Gypsy Rizka
  • The Problem Child (The Sisters Grimm #3)
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Mordicai Gerstein was an American artist, writer, and film director, best known for illustrating and writing children's books. He illustrated the comic mystery fiction series Something Queer is Going On. He won the 2004 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration. ...more

News & Interviews

  Here at Goodreads, we've noticed that a funny thing tends to happen when we start talking about audiobooks: The same few titles get...
47 likes · 12 comments