Sud­den­ly in the Depths of the Forest

Amos Oz; Son­dra Sil­ver­ston, trans.
  • Review
By – August 30, 2011
Maya and her best friend, Mat­ti, live in a vil­lage total­ly bereft of ani­mals, fish, birds and insects. They only hear about these crea­tures — what they are called and the sounds they make — from their teacher and from an old man, who gives them small wood­en fig­ures of ani­mals he has carved. But most of the oth­er grownups will not speak of the ani­mals that dis­ap­peared one night with­out a trace.” When Mat­ti dares to ask his father about that night, he will only say that things hap­pened that we’re not proud of ” and that not every­one is to blame,” and then he insists that Mat­ti leave it alone.” But Maya and Mat­ti are deter­mined to solve the mys­tery. They decide to explore the deep dark for­est sur­round­ing their vil­lage — where they have been warned nev­er to enter — even though they are ter­ri­fied of being snatched by the dread­ed moun­tain demon, Nehi. After a long jour­ney, they reach the gate to Nehi’s cas­tle. Maya goes through the gate first and even­tu­al­ly con­vinces Mat­ti to fol­low her. It is a mag­i­cal place, a ver­i­ta­ble Gar­den of Eden, filled with singing birds and every imag­in­able ani­mal. The chil­dren are reluc­tant to leave but Nehi, con­cerned that their par­ents will be fran­tic with wor­ry, urges them to return home. His part­ing advice is to be sure they nev­er catch the mock­ing dis­ease” so com­mon in their vil­lage — the teas­ing and taunt­ing, and the insults and abuse so care­less­ly heaped on those who are dif­fer­ent. This gen­tle fable about tol­er­ance and hope was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Hebrew in 2005. The excel­lent, poet­ic feel of the trans­la­tion begs to be read aloud. For ages 9 – 12.

Susan Kan­tor was a senior writer/​editor for Girl Scouts of the USA, a chil­dren’s book edi­tor, and a past judge for the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards in the illus­trat­ed children’s book cat­e­go­ry. She is a writer and a docent at the Rubin Muse­um in New York City, where she leads pub­lic and pri­vate tours.

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