cover image THE GOLDEN GOOSE


Dick King-Smith, , illus. by Ann Kronheimer. . Knopf, $17.99 (113pp) ISBN 978-0-375-82984-0

King-Smith (Babe: The Gallant Pig ) shapes a taut, tidy tale of a down-and-out farmer whose luck changes dramatically after his goose lays a golden egg. As the novel opens, the author paints a drolly dim portrait of life at Woebegone Farm, where it always rained at harvest time, and Farmer John Skint's "cows often got foul-in-the-foot,... and his chickens were always being eaten by foxes." Alas, the impoverished fellow is forced to sell all his animals except for a goose and a gander called Sorrow and Misery—and he fears the family will have to eat them or starve. Yet, the two soon hatch a golden gosling, and life becomes jolly indeed (the farmer names it Joy). Stroking the feathered newborn, the farmer and his wife swell with happiness and their worries disappear. In quick succession, the family's luck turns: Skint wins the lottery and places a big bet on "John's Joy," a long-shot contender that places first in a horse race. After a famous naturalist learns of Joy's existence, he shares with the farmer an ancient Roman legend that offers a clue to the golden gosling's pending fate. The novel's breezy premise, Kronheimer's simple and appealing halftone illustrations, the text's relatively large typeface and brief chapters make this perhaps best suited to those just embarking on chapter books, but reluctant readers will also take a fancy to it. And all will be tickled by the uplifting conclusion that caps this engaging story. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)