________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 30 . . . . April 9, 2010


Flightless Goose.

Eric D. Goodman. Illustrations by Nataliya A. Goodman.
Nottingham, MD: The Writer's Lair Books (www.writerslairbooks.com), 2008.
46 pp., hardcover, $15.95.
ISBN 978-0-9754402-5-4.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

** /4

According to the book's dust jacket, "Flightless Goose is a story based around a real [Canadian] goose which lived on a lake in Columbus, Ohio. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, the goose was unable to fly south for the winter with the other geese." The author/illustrator couple named this particular goose Gilbert, and he became the inspiration for their story.           

     Children who are familiar with the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will recognize its thematic connection to the Goodman's picture book Flightless Goose. Whereas Rudolph was immediately rejected by his peers because of his "difference," Gilbert was very much one of the gang of young geese in his flock, and he ran, swam and flew with them. One day, however, Gilbert was hit by a car, and, as a result of this accident, he was left unable to fly. Initially, his friends were supportive and included him in their activities, but, over time, their attitudes towards him changed and they began to exclude him, played tricks on him, and taunted him by calling him "Gilbert, the Flightless Goose." As fall approached, the rest of the flock migrated, and the abandoned Gilbert spent his winter improving the speed at which he could walk and run, skills he didn't know he would be called upon to use the following spring.

internal art

     To backtrack a bit in the storyline, another dimension of Flightless Goose is its inclusion of humans, especially a young boy, Johnny, who, along with some adults, brings bread crumbs for the pond's geese. Although the book's text is silent about Johnny's physical status, Nataliya Goodman's illustrations show that Johnny is in a wheelchair, a reality which adds additional meaning to Johnny's words when he verbally comforts Gilbert:

They're just jealous because you're different. But everyone is different!

One day they'll see that you're as good as they are.

     That day of which Johnny spoke comes in the spring when a pair of bad guys see the pond's geese as an easy and free source of food.

The two men sneaked up on the geese and began to snatch them. They threw the geese, one by one, into large sacks. The men were very quick. The geese ran as fast as they could, but they were not fast enough. The two caught them all.

All..... but ONE!!!!

     And that one, of course, was Gilbert whose winter of practicing running allows him to escape unseen. Gilbert runs to Johnny's house where his raucous honking alerts Johnny to the fact that something may be amiss at the pond. Following Gilbert, Johnny sees what's occurring, and he alerts other adults to the fact that the geese are being "kidnapped" The police arrive, apprehend the criminals and release the geese.

Hailed as a hero, Gilbert is now accepted by all of the flock.

From that day on, the other geese never made fun of Gilbert again. Gilbert proved that even though he could not fly, there was something he could do even better – RUN!

Gilbert was very much like
the other geese in his flock.
But in some ways he was not.
And that is what made him...


     Flightless Goose's storyline is an acceptable revisiting of a common theme in children's literature, that of alienation. Two aspects of the book, however, negatively impacted my final assessment, with the first being an important factual omission. I strongly suspect most children will immediately question why the geese didn't just fly away when they were being chased by the bad guys. In either the main text or via an end note, the author needed to inform his non-birding readers that there is a period of three weeks to a month when Canadian geese molt and are flightless.

     My second concern was with the decisions made concerning the style or styles to be used to illustrate the story. Again, Nataliya A. Goodman's watercolours are acceptable, but it was her juxtaposition of realistic portrayals of the geese and cartoon-like anthropomorphic renderings that I found visually quite off-putting. 

Recommended with reservations.

Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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