From School Library Journal
Grade 3–6—Five pond geese trade security for the exhilaration of freedom to lead a lost one-eyed heron to the migration gathering in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. Foolhardy Skylar has some vague memories of his first migration when he was grounded and left behind during a storm. He leads opinionated Roosevelt, stalwart Esther, pudgy Loomis, and anxious little Weedle through several adventures and scrapes to their goal. Liwska's shaded black-and-white pencil renderings work with the text to give readers a strong sense of place. Realistic geese behaviors and touches of humor keep pace with strong themes (facing fears and learning through experience). Grounded in nature, like Donna Jo Napoli's Ugly (Hyperion, 2006), Skylar also includes a fatal scene with a hunter. The writing is strong, though a few wobbly phrases such as "The sun opened the horizon like an invitation" and geese descending from the sky "as if delivered of it" may need some clarification. With its evocative descriptions and some challenging vocabulary, this book makes a great read-aloud.—Susan Hepler, formerly at Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA
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Can five overweight pond geese successfully go wild and migrate? They hope to, assuming they can stop squabbling long enough to pick a direction and fly. Skylar, the self-appointed leader, finds himself leading his motley flock on their first migration. Nature imagery and extensive information on the migratory habits of Canada geese infuse a text, punctuated by occasional soft, black-and-white full-page illustrations. Through a series of perilous encounters with storms, ice, and raccoons, the story builds slowly, filled with introspections about fear, danger, and what it means to be wild. The pace quickens when the geese talk with each other, their near constant bickering adding a dose of humor. Complex sentence structures and vocabulary make this a good choice for readers ready to move away from transitional books like Johanna Hurwitz’s Park Pals series into more realistic animal stories. Or use as a classroom read-aloud about teamwork, leadership, and rising above fear. Grades 3-5. --Suzanne Harold
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