cover image The Singing Geese

The Singing Geese

Jan Wahl. Dutton Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-67499-3

Wahl (Little Eight John) first heard this story from an elderly African American man who was sitting on his porch; together with Brown (Tailypo), he recaptures the homespun magic of both the tale and the telling. When Sam Bombel shoots a goose for dinner, he soon discovers this is no ordinary bird: it belongs to an enchanted flock that sings a strange song, ""La lee loo. Come quilla, come quilla. Bang, bang, bang! Quilla bang."" As Sam's wife readies the bird for roasting, ""each feather, as she plucked it, flew out, out, out of the window,"" and the flock's song continues to haunt the couple while they prepare to eat it. Just before Sam digs in, the flock flies in, singing their strange song, and liberates their rejuvenated comrade. That's enough for Sam: when last seen, he is happily harvesting carrots and ""never went hunting again."" While Brown's oil paintings are realistic in style, his milk chocolate browns, butter yellows and celery greens have a luxurious quality that fills every page with a heightened sense of wonder. Wahl's writing is economical, yet captures the rhythms of a yarn spun on a country afternoon--readers can almost hear the narrator's sly voice and see his mischievous grin. A melody for the geese's song is included on the final page. Ages 5-8. (Jan.)