By Jean-François Dumont. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014. 32 pages. $16/hardcover. Recommended for ages 4–8.Buy on FJ Amazon Store
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The full double-page gorgeously colored pictures are brimming with life, and the text is clear in a neat font. Zita is a gosling who can’t keep in one-two, one-two step with the disapproving goose leader, Igor. She sadly manages only a splashing rhythm of her own. However, this attracts other creatures whose individual sounds produce “a wild rhythm that swept along everything in its path.” Only Igor maintains his one-two, one-two goose step. The cover summary describes a “hilarious read-aloud that celebrates imagination and individuality.” So I was amazed when some adults responded to Zita’s involuntary revolution with less than enthusiasm. Apparently identifying with the rejected Igor, they worried about the breakdown of discipline as the geese were no longer obedient to the leader.
Jean-François Dumont is a prize-winning French writer and illustrator. The translator isn’t credited. My one reservation is about the title. The Geese March in Step is exactly wrong. The original is La Petite Oie Qui Ne Voulait Pas Marcher Au Pas (2007): literally “The Little Goose Who Didn’t Want to Walk in Step,” or more accurately “The Gosling Who Couldn’t Walk in Step” (for Zita can’t, rather than won’t, conform). In twenty-first-century Europe, goose stepping has chilling connotations, and the concept of declining to accept this form of ambulatory discipline (even for a goose) still has power.
This is a high-quality volume, a bonus for any bookshelf. But be warned, you may be required to read it aloud time after time after time. And will you march with Igor or dance with Zita? Or maybe both.