Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Friday, February 12, 2010

This Goose is Cooked

Will's Quill or, How a Goose Saved Shakespeare by Don Freeman

Willoughby lived in the country but wanted more from life so decided to move to the city. He was amazed at all the hustle and bustle he saw when he arrived, being only a country goose. After almost being caught to be cooked Willoughby tries to hide in an alley only to have old dirty dishwater dumped on his head. A nice young man sees what happens and dries Willoughby off. Willoughby follows the nice young man to a theater where the young man is acting in a play. During the sword fight Willoughby, wanting to protect his friend, bites the other swordsman causing the audience to laugh and then leave. Willoughby realizes he didn't help his new friend at all and follows him home. Late at night Willoughby hears the young man complaining and throws his pen out of the window. Willoughby looks at the quill pen and realizes one of his own quills would work much better. He takes a feather from his side and knocks on his friend's door. The man is very happy to have the new quill and invites Willoughby inside. That night the young man is able to finish his first play with is new quill pen. From then on Willoughby and Will Shakespeare were friends and went everywhere together.

A cute story but I did not particularly like it. Now to be fair I was a history major in college and thought to make my living at studying history for awhile so I may be biased about historical fiction. Actually I am biased about historical fiction, it bugs me. This was not as bad as some other stories I have read though, the illustrations do give you a sense of London during that time period and the dress is fairly accurate. The author simply inserted a goose into Shakespeare's life that helped him write his first play. I think that if Shakespeare ran across a fat goose in London and he was able to get close to it, he would have taken it home and eaten it, but that is just my opinion. Another thing I did not like about the story was that when people are speaking the author tries to have them speak as they would have then. This is a bad thing for two reasons, one, I think children will get confused when the majority of the narration is in modern English with only a few sentences thrown in here and there that sounds so different from what they speak, and second, I am not sure he is entirely accurate about how they are speaking. If you are going to make someone speak as if they were from that time I would want to make sure you had it correct. I realize I am on a soap box here and it is historical fiction, fiction, being the key word, but as I said before, it bugs me. This is a nice story though about friendship and trying to help people, which are good things. If you have a young reader at home who likes stories that take place in a different time or has caring animals this is a good book to pick up. I would recommend for children ages 3-6.

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