At the edge of a lake amongst reeds and lake grasses, a mother goose perches upon an unusually large clutch of eggs, a full dozen, while a protective father guards the nest. Over the course of two days each egg hatches excepting one. Hoping for a miracle Momma goose snuggles against her last egg until finally Grady, the last of twelve goslings, is born.
Denise Brennan-Nelson's tale of Grady the Goose delivers a gentle story of the development of a young Canada goose from birth to migration. Grady’s life – and that of her parents – is complicated by her tendency to stray from her family and wander off on her own. Drawing upon the grouping instincts of Canada geese Brennan-Nelson weaves a gentle thread of family togetherness through the various stages of Grady’s growth and maturation.
Despite repeated warnings from her mother and father to stay with the family, Grady’s penchant for independent exploration finds her separated from the family flock following their departure for their winter-feeding grounds. My daughter’s spike of anxiety for Grady’s well-being was resolved within a matter of minutes as Grady is discovered by a kind farmer and finds herself re-united with her loved ones, now keenly aware of the importance of familial solidarity.
Some sensitive young children experience distress when confronted with tales of familial separation, and my oldest was such a child between the ages of three and four. At six however, the gentle tension presenting the story is manageable for her. My middle child, now three, experiences no anxiety with such stories. Parents who have noticed this tendency in their own children will need to judge from their child’s previous reactions if this story is appropriate.
Here in Canada, Grady’s adventures are a perfect bi-annual family read-aloud for spring and fall, when the skies are peppered with migrating geese, and mated pairs can be found in lakes and fields across the nation. Readers in southern climes will be privy to the stages of goose life that take place before geese arrive in their areas in late fall. The growth, natural habitat, and some of the social interactions of geese will be naturally conveyed through the lilting and casual prose.
A single page “Facts about Canada Geese” section at the end of the story restates the information given within the story, while adding some additional details about the typical “V” formation geese fly in. Goose specific vocabulary is singled out in a brief vocabulary section; despite my status as a life-long Canadian I never knew that a skein was a flock of geese or similar birds in flight.
Illustrations by award-winning artist Michael Monroe breathe vivid life into Grady’s development. Demonstrating a masterful command of idyllic landscapes and wildlife, Monroe’s gorgeous paintings are presented in both full-page format, as well as panoramic, two-page spreads. The story text is incorporated naturally with the illustrations; overlaid on light areas in black text, or on areas of shadow in white text.
Rendered in light strokes of acrylic to take full advantage of the natural texture of the canvas, Monroe’s palette evocatively calls forth rosy dawns, fresh spring mornings, autumnal grain fields and the solitude of the long, dark night. Clearly the work of extensive observation, his textured work is worthy of particular examination. Fluffy goslings, feathered adults, sparkling drops of water and grass-filled nests are all extraordinarily realistic, and soft throughout. Monroe’s contributions absolutely make the book, each painting a visual feast.
Parents and teachers looking for the gentlest introduction to the Canadian goose will find Grady the Goose an ideal picture book for their purposes. Factual observation is skillfully blended within a charming story, ensuring retention and delight.