In a village far away, deep in a valley, all the animals and birds disappeared some years ago. Only the rebellious young teacher and an old man talk about animals to the children, who have never seen such (mythical) creatures. Otherwise there’s a strange silence round the whole subject. One wretched, little boy has dreams of animals, begins to whoop like an owl, is regarded as an outcast, and eventually disappears.
A stubborn, brave girl called Maya and her friend Matti, are drawn to explore in the woods round the village. They know there are dangers beyond and that at night, Nehi the Mountain Demon comes down to the village. In a far-off cave, they come upon the vanished boy, content and self-sufficient. Eventually they find themselves in a beautiful garden paradise full of every kind of animal, bird and fish - the home of Nehi the Mountain Demon. The Demon is a pied piper figure who stole the animals from the village. He, too, was once a boy there, but he was different, mocked and reviled, treated as an outsider and outcast.
This is his terrible revenge, one which has punished him too, by removing him from society and friendship, and every few years he draws another child or two to join him in his fortress Eden, where he has trained the sheep to lie down with the wolves, and where predators are few. He lets the two children return to the village, telling them that one day, when people are less cruel and his desire for vengeance has crumbled, perhaps the animals might come back
**Book Copy Courtesy of NetGalley
Goodreads: 2 out of 5 stars
This book is translated from Israeli. The basic synopsis of the book is that all the animals in a village have disappeared and nobody speaks about it, even though the adults know what happened. Eventually, they tell the children that Nehi the Mountain Demon came down into the village one night and stole the animals. Friends Matti and Maya know something's up, so they decide to skip school and go to the mountain to find out what really happened to the animals, and why the adults refuse to speak about that night. They find Nehi the Mountain Demon, except he's not crazy like they were brought up to believe. Instead, he was originally a citizen of the village, but was constantly bullied. Because of this, he decided to escape into the mountains. His own family disowned him. He didn't have friends. And the one girl he had a crush on wouldn't give him the time of day. So he learned how to speak animal. Then, as revenge, he made his way into the village again and told all the animals to come with him.
The moral of this story, I think, is the effect society has on people when these people are constantly bullied and mentally tortured. While it's a great concept, I wasn't sucked into this story at all. As a matter of fact, I skimmed over the last twenty or so pages because it repeats the same thing over and over. This book was less than 200 pages, but it might as well have been a 1,000 page book. This story didn't have a real character narrator; it was more like a general voice telling the story. And that's just it--the story did nothing but tell. I will say that it has a dark feel to it, and it's definitely weird reading about kids who have never known real animals (only those from books). If you're looking for a book with a fairytale style, minus the magical elements, then this is the book for you. (But not me.)