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Children's Literature Reviews
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The goose girl
Shannon Hale.
Contributor biographical information
Publisher description
New York : Bloomsbury, 2003.
383 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.


Sequel: Enna burning.
On her way to marry a prince she's never met, Princess Anidori is betrayed by her guards and her lady-in-waiting and must become a goose girl to survive until she can reveal her true identity and reclaim the crown that is rightfully hers.

Best Books:

Best Children's Books of the Year, 2004 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Ninth Edition, 2005 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Eighth Edition, 2004 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
School Library Journal Book Review Stars, July 2002 ; Cahners; United States
YALSA Teens' Top Ten, 2004 ; American Library Association; Nominee; United States
YALSA Teens' Top Ten, 2004 ; American Library Association; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:

Garden State Teen Book Award, 2006 Winner Fiction Grades 6-8 New Jersey
Josette Frank Award, 2004 Winner United States
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature, 2004 Finalist Children's Literature United States
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature, 2010 Finalist Children’s Literature United States

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Beehive Book Award, 2004-2005 ; Nominee; Young Adult; Utah
Garden State Teen Book Award, 2006 ; Nominee; Fiction-Grades 6-8; New Jersey
Great Lakes Great Books Award, 2005-2006 ; Nominee; Grades 6-8; Michigan
Lone Star Reading List, 2004-2005 ; Grades 6-8; Texas
Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award, 2007-2008 ; Nominee; Grades 6-8; Minnesota

Curriculum Tools:

Link to Teacher Guides at Tracie Vaughn Zimmer Site

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Upper Grade
Book Level 5.9
Accelerated Reader Points 14
Accelerated Vocabulary

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.
Lexile Measure 870

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 6
Title Point Value 20
Lexile Measure 870


Anne O'Malley (Booklist, Aug. 1, 2003 (Vol. 99, No. 22))
She can whisper to horses and communicate with birds, but the crown princess Ani has a difficult time finding her place in the royal family and measuring up to her imperial mother. When she is shipped off to a neighboring kingdom as a bride, her scheming entourage mounts a bloody mutiny to replace her with a jealous lady-in-waiting, Selia, and to allow an inner circle of guards more power in the new land. Barely escaping with her life, Ani disguises herself as a goose girl and wanders on the royal estate. Does she have the pluck to reclaim her rightful place? Get ready for a fine adventure tale full of danger, suspense, surprising twists, and a satisfying conclusion. The engaging plot can certainly carry the tale, but Hale's likable, introspective heroine makes this also a book about courage and justice in the face of overwhelming odds. The richly rendered, medieval folkloric setting adds to the charm. Category: Books for Older Readers--Fiction. 2003, Bloomsbury, $17.95. Gr. 6-10.

Pam Harwood (Books for Keeps No. 144, January 2004)
This impressive first novel by a new American writer typifies the growing tendency for classic folktale to find new life in the full-length modern children's story. Drawing on traditional romance and magic with its potential for thoughtful allegory, The Goose Girl creates an imaginary medieval world. Here a betrayed and dispossessed princess discovers magical powers, wars are fought with swords and javelins, and royal journeys take months on horseback through vast empty forests. But important modern parallels are there for those who look. Crown Princess Anidori of remote little Kildenree, intuitively able to communicate with animals and natural forces but inept at 'people-speaking', is deprived of the succession by the queen her mother and instead sent to a political marriage with the heir to powerful and warlike Bayern, the neighbouring kingdom. En route she is betrayed by her lady-in-waiting, who displaces her, and is forced to earn her living as a goose girl in Bayern until she can reclaim what is rightfully hers. Her experience as a lowly goose girl makes her a wiser and more confident princess. She is finally able to stop the war which militant Bayern, misinformed by the false princess and its own warmongering prime minister, is about to launch against harmless Kildenree. This is a highly readable, suspenseful and captivating novel. No doubt unintentionally, it also becomes a striking allegory about powerful, violent, trigger-happy countries which use fabricated dangers to justify pre-emptive warfare against faraway weak nations. Category: 10-14 Middle/Secondary. Rating:. ...., Bloomsbury, 400pp, D12.99 hbk. Ages 10 to 14.

Barbara L. Talcroft (Children's Literature)
The Grimms' collection of folktales contains two stories of a Gñsemagd, or goose girl. Author Hale has expanded one of them to almost four hundred pages and filled the spaces with a multitude of characters, new locales, and numerous events to explain what is unexplained in the original. In folktales, girls are often forced to undergo humiliation and hard labor before they can come into their own, and this princess is no exception. Betrayed by her envious lady-in-waiting, she must escape from vicious guards, serve as goose girl, and live with the oppressed workers of the city while she gains confidence and allies to confront the king and reclaim her identity. More attention has been given to dialogue, detail, and character development than is the case in folktales. This princess has the opportunity to meet her intended prince (handsome and perceptive); the magical white horse Falada assumes less importance. After many adventures and a bloody climax, the impostor is exposed and the princess triumphs as the saviour of her people, a typical journey in heroic fantasy, into which the goose girl story has been transformed. Those who love this genre, and who don't object to the violent ending (the prince must kill to prove his manhood and the gruesome death allotted to the false bride is retained), may find this journey absorbing. Those who love folktales will prefer Wilhelm Grimm's short, pithy narrative--betrayal, humiliation, reinstatement, revenge--and the opportunity to imagine for themselves the motivations and the magic. 2004, Bloomsbury, $17.95. Ages 10 up.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2003 (Vol. 71, No. 13))
A beautifully textured and deeply re-imagined version of the Grimm Brothers Goose Girl, Hale's first novel is too long by a fair amount, but ensorcelled teen readers, swept up in the romance and the luscious language, probably won't notice. All the elements are here: a princess called Ani is born with the gift of hearing and understanding the birds, the wind, and her beautiful horse, Falada. But Ani's mother, the queen, who has the gift of people-speaking, is so disappointed that Ani's gifts are in another direction that she sends Ani off to marry a prince of the next kingdom. On the road, Ani's serving maid Selia and her cohorts kill her guard and Selia takes Ani's place. Ani is cared for by a forest woman, becomes a goose herd in the town, and sees Falada's head hung in the town square. When Ani rallies her gaggle of friends to try to stop the war that Selia is instigating to hide her treachery, it leads to a gorgeous, dramatic climax where stories "tell us what they can. The rest is for us to learn." 2003, Bloomsbury, $17.95. Category: Fiction. Ages 13 up. © 2003 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Claire Rosser (KLIATT Review, July 2003 (Vol. 37, No. 4))
To tell you the truth, the original fairy tale of "The Goose Girl" is somewhat vague in my memory, but this retelling holds its own as a story in its own right. It reminds me of the work of Robin McKinley in her retellings of "The Beauty and the Beast" and "Sleeping Beauty" (Beauty and Spindle's End). The world of the Princess Ani, who becomes the goose girl, is a fantasy world, but the people who live in this world are quite human in nature, with just a few supernatural features added. For instance, Ani is able to speak with animals, and she eventually even learns to connect with wind, controlling gusts and whirlwinds as needed. The princess has been given in marriage to the prince of a neighboring war-loving kingdom in an effort to create peace. On the long journey to her new home, Ani is betrayed by Selia, her lady-in-waiting, and by many of the armed guards who have been enticed by Selia's flirting. Ani escapes through the forest and is given refuge by a woman and her son. There is no way she can explain who she really is; she disguises her identity and gets a job as a goose girl in the capital city of the kingdom where she was meant to be queen. At this point, we are a third of the way into the story. Ani is slowly transformed into an independent-thinking, courageous young woman as she makes her way in the society of other young people who work with the geese and other animals belonging to the king. From afar she sees Selia impersonating her, passing herself off as the Princess Ani, engaged to marry the prince. Selia has plotted to protect her own identity by inciting a war between the two kingdoms--but before this war and the marriage can take place, Ani, with the help of the farm workers and forest dwellers, rises up to stop the war and expose Selia as an imposter. The adventure is made all the more appealing by the many details of the horse Ani loves and the other animals she is close to. Her ability with horses joins her with a young man, who says he is the servant of the prince, and their respect for one another grows into love, but it is a love that must be denied--until the happy ending. (Fairy tales always have a happy ending.) This YA novel will appeal to readers of fantasy and to all who enjoy seeing classic stories transformed by a creative author. Category: Hardcover Fiction. KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Bloomsbury, 383p. map., $17.95. Ages 12 to 18.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
In this affecting debut novel, Princess Ani, the shy, sensitive, first-born daughter to the king and queen of Kildenree, embarks on an adventure-filled journey to learn the many lessons that will make her a true queen. With the help of her aunt (the queen's sister), Ani discovers that she was born with the "gift of animal speaking." But her gift frightens others. The narrative's leisurely pace plays up Ani's sense of isolation; at a ball hosted by her parents, for instance, the nurses hold Ani's siblings close and whisper of "men and secret things. Every word they spoke seemed to empty Ani more, like buckets dipped into a shallow well." Considering Ani unworthy of the crown, Ani's newly widowed mother sends her off, at age 17, to be married to the prince of a neighboring kingdom—mainly to keep peace. On the way to "the other side of the mountains," her lady-in-waiting steals her identity and wrests control of the guards so she may enter the kingdom of Bayern as the Kildenree princess. Meanwhile, Ani dodges attempts on her life, is looked after by an older woman in the Forest, and finally makes it to Bayern, to be hired in the palace as a goose girl. Only when she develops humility, a sense of justice, a talent for peacekeeping, an ability to command the wind and the gift of "people speaking" can Ani reclaim her place as the future queen of Bayern. In an attempt to weave all of the elements of the original tale, the novel at times bogs down in detail. But those who enjoy getting lost in an enchanted world will discover here a satisfying and richly embellished retelling of a classic that communicates values still pertinent to contemporary readers. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)"

Janice M. Del Negro (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 2003 (Vol. 57, No. 3))
The Grimms’ tale of the princess deceived by a maidservant and relegated to the role of goose girl is here thoughtfully and originally retold in this first novel. The opening line sets the tone for the densely magical tale that follows: “She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she did not open her eyes for three days.” Ani is a princess, it is true, but she feels out of place in the palace of her royal mother and spends more time riding her horse, Falada, than in princessly pursuits. Betrothed at seventeen to the son of a neighboring king, Ani sets out with a retinue of guards and her lady-in-waiting, nineteen-year-old Selia, for her new wedded life. The princess’ misgivings about her marital future become irrelevant when a Selia-led coup leaves Ani bereft in the unknown land of Bayern, while Selia assumes the role of that land’s future queen. Cast upon the mercy of strangers, Ani finds herself, literally and figuratively, when she is hired to be goose girl to the king’s geese. Hale weaves a complex pattern of magic and romance in this intense coming-of-age tale. Lyrical language supplies a sensual energy that subtly infuses the text. Characterizations are multilayered and solid, each player having a believable emotional connection to the action. Ani becomes herself in the course of the story, and her personal and physical growth, combined with the intrigue and adventure of her dilemma, makes this novel a journey worth taking. Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 2003, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2003, Bloomsbury, 388p, $17.95. Grades 6-10.

Rebecca Barnhouse (VOYA, October 2003 (Vol. 26, No. 4))
In this rich, layered, and enchanting fairy-tale, love, loyalty, and hard work play as strong a role as magic. When her lady-in-waiting and guards betray her, Ani, the seventeen-year-old Crown Princess of Kildenree, finds herself working as a goose girl in Bayern, the country where she was supposed to have married the prince. She becomes a very good goose girl, but more important and with more difficulty, she becomes fast friends with the other workers, learning to trust them despite the secrets and subterfuge that make up her life. She cannot even let the dark-haired Bayerns see her Kildenrean yellow hair. Because she unexpectedly survived the massacre in which she was supposed to have been murdered, she is being hunted. Now the false princess has concocted a war so that militaristic Bayern will attack peaceful, defenseless Kildenree. Ani must do something to help her country, but how can she convince the king of Bayern to believe a simple goose girl? As with Robin McKinley's heroines, Ani does not trust her own talents and is slow to awaken to the magic within her. Also like those characters, she has a special affinity for horses, but the language of birds is her specialty. Although the book is stylistically accomplished, plot and characterization are uneven at first in this retelling of the Grimms' fairy tale. Yet by Part Two, a fourth of the way into the story, Hale's hand becomes steadier so that by the end, she, like her heroine, has come into her own, locating the magic of her voice. Both Ani's and Hale's are talents to celebrate. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Bloomsbury, 388p, $17.95. Ages 12 to 18.


Fairy tales.
Princesses Fiction.
Human-animal communication Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ8.H134 Go 2003
2002028336 [Fic]
158234843X (alk. paper)
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