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 strong and admirable, but not so virtuous or empty as to be unrelatable. The magic and animal characters were a bit hit or miss. April the chicken had a wonderful voice. I could picture her perfectly, but Nubia the cat had the best line in the whole book when responding she had become a lawyer through night classes. I kept cracking up over that. The bear and the fairy round out the posse, but they are less exciting (though they have tender moments).
The book is short (barely novella length), so the narrative can be a bit sparse. It's a bit like reading a haiku. The conservation of language doesn't detract from its beauty, but things can get a bit vague or pop up unexpectedly. There were just a few scenes that I had trouble understanding some of the action, and later, why some of it was happening.
I think The Old Country is a great pre-cursor for [b:The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making|9591398|The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)|Catherynne M. Valente|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1317793528s/9591398.jpg|6749837] because the theme of The Old Country focuses on is the very simple good vs. bad conflict. But what makes someone entirely bad or evil? Are we a mixture of both? How much should we allow desire to play a part of our choices?
If reading it with kids, it's not frightening (the war is mostly occurring off stage, so there is tension but not any horror) but the language may be a bit too advanced to entertain the younger grades. I think it's perfect for middle grades to read independently. And of course, any adult that still loves to surround themselves in magic.