Monday, September 15, 2008

Once Upon A Time There Was A Charming Book ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Once upon a time in the faraway land of Kildenree (in a book called The Goose Girl by beloved storyteller Shannon Hale) there lived a girl named Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee. As you can tell by her complicated name, Ani was no ordinary girl - she was a princess who dwelt in a beautiful palace. Now, just because a child's birth designates her royalty, it doesn't mean that's what she really wants. Ani was one princess who didn't care to sit around embroidering and learning manners. She longed to be out in the sunshine; in fact, she felt happiest when she was in the fields and forests communing with the animals of her kingdom. When Ani discovered she could learn the languages of her animal friends, she was delighted. Sharing her secret, however, led to trouble. The palace residents viewed her skill as odd, unnatural. Fearing her daughter's otherness would make her an unsuitable wife and ruler, her mother, the cold-hearted queen, forbade her from visiting any "friends" of the non-human variety.

The years passed, but Ani still didn't find princess-ly tasks to her liking. She grew especially morose when she learned of her impending marriage to a prince in the distant land of Bayern. Not only was her mother using her as a political pawn, but also she would be leaving her homeland to wed a complete stranger. With little choice in the matter, Ani set out on the 6-month journey that would take her to her new home. A princess could not travel alone, of course, so she was accompanied by a party of guards; her faithful horse Falada; Selia, her lady-in-waiting and only real friend; and a handkerchief dotted with her mother's blood. Ani believed the token from her mother would protect her from anything her servants could not. But, she was wrong. When she lost the handkerchief, Ani had to face the fact that magic could not save her from the coup her servants mounted. Terrified, she fled into the forest, where she hid from her enemies.

Lost in the woods, Ani was forced to rely on the help of strangers. Eventually, she made her way to Bayern, with the intention of stomping straightaway to the king. So intent was she on telling the king her friend's sordid plot (for it was evident that Selia planned to have Ani killed so that she could assume Ani's identity, marry the prince, and rule Bayern) that she failed to realize how ridiculous her story would sound. She had no witnesses, no one who could prove who she really was. So, instead, Ani petitioned the king for a job. Although she wanted to work in the royal stables (where her precious Falada was being held), the king assigned her to tend his geese. Of course, Ani was uniquely skilled for the position, and soon had the geese minding her like well-mannered children.

Ani had never lived among commoners, but her work led her to a community of friends who accepted her as one of their own. Believing she came from the Forest, like them, they confided in her, listened to her stories, and shared with her their woes about being outcasts in the city. Over time she almost forgot that she hadn't been reared in the Forest. Even when she met a palace guard who treated her like a lady despite her lowly appearance, Ani still knew she was nothing but a goose girl.

Now, although Ani carefully disguised herself by wearing a hat to cover her "yellow" hair and darkening her light eyebrows, it was inevitable that someone would discover the truth. Conrad, the goose boy, had grown green with jealousy over Ani's way with the animals. When he saw her shaking out her hair - of a color unknown in Bayern - he realized she was not who she said she was. With Bayern on the brink of war with Kildenree (another one of Selia's plots), Ani knew she had to confess the truth to Conrad and her new friends. Would they believe her? Would they help her convince the king to stop the marriage between Selia and the prince, avert a bloody war, and save Kildenree? Or would they think it was just another one of her entertaining stories?

Every story has a moral, and ours is no exception. In The Goose Girl, Ani learns that although magic exists in her world, her real power comes from within. As a princess, she embraced the values of her mother - "separation, elevation, delegation" (25) - as a humble commoner, she finds her passion, her people, and her true self. She discovers that those who stand for truth and justice will always triumph in the end (it is a fairy tale, after all).

There's only one problem with this magical tale - like all stories, it had to end. Fear not, tho', there are sequels. Will Ani find her happily ever after? We'll just have to see what the talented Miss Hale has in store for the goose girl who would be queen ...

Grade: A

8 comments:

  1. I am thrilled that you enjoyed this book. Shannon Hale is such a master craftsman of words. I started my summer off with this book and I was so sorry that it took me so many years to read it....

    Enjoy your new YA reading as you write tests for school. You'll love it!
    Gaye

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  2. I probably the only person on the planet that thought this books was ok. I had just read Princess Academy and LOVED it. Then I read Goose girl and thought it was just ok. I know, I will probably be banned from all book blogs after that.
    I am looking forward to her next book.

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  3. I love all of Shannon's books, so I'm thrilled you gave her an A! The next two books in the Bayern world are also wonderful--I think you'll love them, too.

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  4. I enjoyed reading The Goose Girl too! I also really liked Hale's adult fiction title Austenland. You should check it out!

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  5. This is the first book I've read of Hale's. I think I actually have all her novels on my shelf - I just need the time to read them all.

    Laura - LOL! I've heard a lot of great things about Princess Academy. I need to read it and see how it compares to Goose Girl.

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  6. I've had this on my bookshelf FOREVER! Hopefully within the next month.

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  7. This was a great read. Glad you liked it too. I know there is a sequel to it, are you planning on picking that up?

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  8. I really liked this one too. It's one of my favorites. Just so you know, the sequels to this one (Enna Burning and River Secrets) both contain Ani, but don't really focus on her story too much...I enjoyed them both but they focus on different people

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