Excerpt from The Old Country by Mordicai Gerstein, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Old Country

By Mordicai Gerstein

The Old Country
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: May 2005,
    144 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2006,
    144 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"We will show that these chickens, unwilling captives of the accuser and her cruel family, begged my client, this honest fox, to help them escape their servitude, to live as free citizens of these woods, like all of you here."

"All lies!" hissed Nubia, lunging at the owl, who flapped its arms (or were they wings?) and hissed back. They glared at each other. The owl took refuge behind the fox. Gisella glanced at the fox, and it looked right into her eyes. She looked away.

"First witness," said the judge. One of the small people that ringed the court came shyly but quickly into the center of the clearing. If Gisella looked at him from the corners of

her eyes, he didn't fade away. He had pretty little features, skin and eyes the color of new leaves, and long dark green hair like pond grass.

"Say your name," said the judge, "and what you witnessed and when."

"I am called Quick," said the little person, quickly, each word a different note, like singing. "This morning before the dew was dry, I saw a fox drag a chicken into this clearing, rip it open, and devour it; she cracked its bones, sucked them dry, and ate them, too, and then licked her paws and whiskers. I saw it all. It's all I saw."

"Did this chicken," asked Nubia, "seem eager or willing to be the fox's breakfast?"

"I didn't ask," said the little person.

"Was this chicken named May, or was it named April?"

"It didn't say."

"No further questions," said Nubia. The owl waddled out from behind the fox and paced the grass.

"Was the fox you saw this fox?" it asked.

"I have no idea," said the witness. "All foxes look alike to me." And he faded away and was gone.

"Next witness," said the judge. A chicken's head looked warily out of the fox's hole, this way and that. It was April.

"April," called Gisella. "It's me, Gisella, come to take you home." The hen looked at her, and then looked away. She walked out before the judge. She appeared nervous.

"Say your name," said the spider, "and how you came to be here."

"April, your worship," she clucked and muttered. "In the early dark of dawn, I was awakened by a voice whispering in the hen dialect, ‘I'm here to free you so your eggs will not be eaten and you can have chicks that are free, and their chicks, and their chicks' chicks will be free.' I asked this voice, ‘What is "free"?' and it answered, ‘Free is what every creature longs to be and has a right to be.' Then something took me firmly but gently by the neck and carried me out of the chicken house, just as the others were waking. It was the fox. I'd always heard horrible stories about foxes—what they do to chickens—but I wasn't afraid. I don't know why not. It brought me here and hid me in its hole." April began to cluck and anxiously turn in circles. "I don't like talking like this, answering questions. I'm just a poor hen!" She was becoming more and more upset. The owl person waddled up to her and tried to calm her.

"Now, now, we know it's been an ordeal. We appreciate what you've been through. We're here to help. Just one more question, one more, that's all. Did this fox harm or hurt you in any way?"

"No, no she didn't."

"No further questions," said the owl, and stepped back. Nubia took her turn.

"Were you ever mistreated by this girl, Gisella, or any member of her family? Didn't they always feed you and house you and care for you?"

"Yes! Yes!" screeched the hen. "But they took my eggs! Every day I laid, and she came and took my eggs! And then, when one of us became old, or injured, one of her family would come and wring our neck! What do I know? I'm only a chicken! They feed us and they keep us stupid! April ran, madly clucking, back into the fox's hole. The lawyers and the defendant all stared after her.

From The Old Country by Mordecai Gerstein. Copyright 2005 Mordecai Gerstein. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Roaring Brook Press.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.