February 2, 2005
When twelve-year-old Austin Cook and his
family head to visit his Uncle Steve in North Carolina, Austin has no idea that this visit will be any different from any
of his other visits. Austin appears to be your typical twelve-year-old boy, bright and inquisitive, and often full of mischief.
He has always had a connection with animals, but this visit will illuminate the fact that he has an incredible gift that goes
far beyond anything he has ever imagined.
Uncle Steve lives out in the forest, surrounded by wildlife. Austin and
his sister Katie love visiting their uncle and exploring the surrounding forest. Uncle Steve always has something new to teach
them about the wildlife and nature. When Uncle Steve takes Austin to the Nature Museum where his friend Amy works, Austin
suddenly becomes aware that he is communicating with two of the animals that Amy has nursed back to health. It is a strange
and somewhat frightening realization for him and initially, Austin tries to suppress the thought that he can actually communicate
with animals. As the story progresses, and it becomes more apparent and, more urgent, that Austin listen to the animals, Austin
finally begins to accept this most precious gift.
In Chapter 5 of the book, we are told the legend of the Schmooney.
The Schmooney, a creature purported to live in the forest, feels that it has no special gifts and is embarrassed to be seen
by anyone. Then one-day the Schmooney's gift comes to light in a most wonderful and selfless way. In turn, a wonderful gift
is bestowed upon the Schmooney. The story of the Schmooney becomes, in a way, a parallel to Austin's story.
of the Enchanted Forest is a treasure trove of information about animals and nature, doled out in a most enjoyable manner.
The story is told in the first person and the author has realistically crept into the mind of a twelve-year-old boy so that
no false notes are struck. The story moves along at a rapid pace and excitement, adventure, and courage fill the pages of
The theme of this book, of finding your gift, is a beautiful and compelling one. So many people today feel
lost and without purpose. The author wants us to feel that we each have a wonderful gift that needs to be brought to light
so that we can find our purpose in the world. While this story is most likely written for the 8-12 age group, it has a universal
theme, which can be enjoyed by readers of any age. This is the first book in a trilogy and I very much look forward to reading
more works by Mr. Shumaker and following Austin's journey of enlightenment.
Reviewed by Nancy Machlis Rechtman