cover image Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest

Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest

Amos Oz, trans. from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston, Harcourt, $15.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-547-55153-1

Oz's slim but beautiful fable adroitly addresses the nature of hope and despair, filtered through a lens of societal trauma and conformity. In a remote village, all the animals—from the wild fish, birds, and game to domesticated pets—vanished many years ago. Now, the village's children barely remember animals, scoffing at the adults who talk about them, and the threat of Nehi the Mountain Demon keeps the villagers—children and adults alike—locked away in fright. When two children, Matti and Maya, think they spot a fish in the river, they set off on an adventure that leads them into the mountains, to a secret garden, and to a revelation about what really happened to the animals. Oz (Soumchi) presents many melancholy characters, from schoolteacher Emanuella (who lost her cat as a child) to elderly Ginome, living as an invalid since the animals vanished. But it's the conformity of the schoolchildren—which they learned from their parents—that presents the real horror of this story. It's through Matti and Maya's willingness to challenge everything that Oz channels hope. Ages 10–14. (Mar.)