Being on the Receiving End: The Goose Girl

If you are new to this blog or are a returning reader, my purpose should be clear – to recommend good books that will enrich your life. But I want to demonstrate to you that I am also a receiver of recommendations, and inspire you to continue your quest to hear from others.

Isn’t it true that each one of us, no matter our age or experience, possesses limited understanding of good reading material and finite resources for discovering it? I believe everyone can benefit from the process of “cross-pollination” in our reading choices. (cross-pollination: “the transfer of pollen from one flower to the stigma of another.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Sometimes others are simply ahead of us, having heard about a wonderful book from another person or media outlet. Their “ear to the ground” hears of it first, or we may never have access to the information they do. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey, was a British mystery recommended to me by Margaret Turner, an 80-year-old woman I helped as a Red Cross volunteer when she became legally blind. She gave me her tattered copy when I moved away.

Other times, the different tastes of our friends or relatives bring us into contact with new experiences. My father, an avid reader, was a fan of western novels. I finally got over my “reader’s block” recently and tried a Louis L’Amour novel, Sackett, and enjoyed it immensely.

I especially cherish the way my children, and other younger readers, pollinate my reading. Luke, my 19-year old son, raised the bar of my reading by his affinity for C. S. Lewis’ essays and non-fiction (his favorites: Mere Christianity and The World’s Last Night). I need to be stretched past my beloved Narnia Chronicles to read “headier stuff”.

My daughter, Rachel (age 15), read The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale this summer. I bought a copy of it several years ago for my girls on the advice of a friend whose teen daughter listed it as one of her top five novels. (Thanks, Sarah Reyes).

Rachel took off with this book and then blazed through the rest of the novels in Shannon Hale’s Books of Bayern series. (The titles in order of publication: The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and Forest Born.)

“Hey Mom! You HAVE to read this!” I genuinely attempt to prioritize my kids’ book recommendations; although my “to read” queue is fairly long. When Rachel saw that I had The Goose Girl in my hands at bedtime with a telltale bookmark peaking from the pages, her voice rose several octaves: “What?! You started reading it and didn’t TELL me!” Her accusation whipped across my bedroom and figuratively shook me by the shoulders. I recollected how much I love to hear feedback from a friend who is reading the book I recommended and realized I had broken the cardinal rule of book sharing!

Here is Rachel’s recommendation for The Goose Girl in her own words: “All teenage girls should read this book. Its plot is intriguing, and mystery is unraveled in every page. The main character is Ani, the sixteen-year-old crown princess. She starts off as a quiet girl who is being trained to become Queen, however she hates everything involving her role as future head of the kingdom. Only when she is out of doors and conversing with, yes I know it sounds crazy, birds does Ani ever feel herself. Through the story, surprising events and incredible plot twists make this book my top read. This queen-to-be goes through life-threatening situations and starts to find out who she really is.

Ani is a princess who doesn’t wait to step into her destiny by being rescued by a ‘knight in shining armor’, but she doesn’t have the ‘I don’t need anybody’s help, I have to do this by myself!’ attitude either, which seems popular in modern stories. Like the Beatles recommend, she’s going to ‘get by with a little help from her friends’. Oh, and a little romance doesn’t take away from the story either…”

The Goose Girl just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Author Shannon Hale posted on her blog:

So dear reader, let us share books so that reading is not a solitary happening, but a satisfying conduit for building common experiences. Our ideal “book clubs” can consist of the people in our inner relational circle – children, spouses, parents, librarians, and friends. We can gain connectedness and bridge generational barriers, which is such a boon in our culture that touts same age and same generation interaction as the be-all and end-all.

Please keep sending me your wonderful ideas. Mrs. Mike was one such recommendation – a spin-off from a blog post on our most memorable books from childhood.

My questions to you: What have others recommended to you that enriched your inner world? If you are 25 years old or younger, what would you tell us older folks to read?

Note to self: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan has been sitting on my “to read” bedside stack too long. Get to it, or Hannah (age 14) will be coming after me.

Categories: Fantasy, Girl Fiction, Uncategorized, young adult fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Being on the Receiving End: The Goose Girl

  1. Just read The Goose Girl for the first time myself this month. I liked it–though I’m hesitant to pick up the next few in the series, as the slow pace of the plot took a lot of patience and I’m not sure I want another slow read for a while.

    Just making it under the bar as a 24-year-old, so I’d like to recommend The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys, both by Maggie Stievalter. OMG OMG OMG amazing writing/storytelling/characterization/everything!

    • Thank you for commenting! I grew up in Villanova and am familiar with Norristown State Hospital and my husband is a therapist, so your book intrigues me. I will put it in my TBR ! Also, look forward to reading more on your blog. Cheers!

      • That’s so neat! I hope you enjoy it when you read it! (Everyone’s TBR piles are so long, it’s hard to get through them all! Mine is over 1,000 long now…) :] Looking forward to more recommendations from your blog.

        • Is the number 1,000 a joke? If true, my jaw has dropped – Do you think writers can read a lot, even when balancing time to write with other responsibilities in life? I am working out this quandary!

          • No, not a joke number! (I based it off my current TBR list on Goodreads. You can friend me if you like: I know I’m not going to make it through all of them–every once in a while I’ll take a book off that I’ve lost interest in, but yes, slowly plowing through them. (And adding more every day!)

            I think a writer can read a lot–and should! I read way more than I write which I think is a reason why my writing is always getting better. With every book, I learn something valuable about storytelling, about characterization, about sentence structure and chapter structure. This means I only pick books I think I’ll learn something from, though: Books that are reviewed as being amazingly well written, award-winning books, books that are written by an extremely talented and respected writer, books within a genre I want to learn more about. I don’t think writers can create good writing without reading good writing every week, if not every day. Despite this, I still manage to write about 5-10 hours a week, which means my writing is never stagnant.

            I challenge myself to always read at least 60 books a year. It’s homework to become a better writer, so it’s something I prioritize in my life and make sure I fit in. To help meet this goal, admittedly, I do squeeze in a lot of audiobooks into other corners of my life so reading sometimes becomes a multi-tasking activity: during the commute, during workout sessions, etc. So this helps with the balance issue.

          • Thank you for your extremely helpful comment! I love to read and am continuing challenging myself to choose books from different genres. Right now, reading The Penderwicks because my teens girls loved it so. I will check out your list on goodreads.

  2. Just discovered your site, and it looks like you’ve got some wonderful, thoughtful recommendations here. I’m looking forward to checking out some of your suggestions.

  3. April

    I have been on the receiving end of so many good recommendations from you! I’m currently reading The Cellist of Sarajevo and like it very much. Another book I read recently was Still Alice– it is a heartbreaking look at early onset dementia through the eyes of the patient. While it was very sad and also terrifying to think of myself in her shoes, I found it fascinating.

  4. At 25 I just manage to sneak into your age range there 🙂 As you know I love The Chronicles of Narnia but as I’ve got older I have started reading other works by C S Lewis. I love and highly recommend Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters. I also agree with your daughters I really enjoyed The Goose Girl (although I haven’t read the rest of the series) and The Lightning Thief and the rest of the Percy Jackson series.

  5. There’s another “Goose Girl” by Harold MacGraw. It’s an older book which is a bit like “The Great Impersonation” (another of my favorites). This “Goose Girl” takes place in a fictional Germanic kingdom and is full of intrigue and romance and adventure, a great read for a teenage girl–or one like me who never grew up! 🙂

    Another of my favorites from my teenage years is “Forgotten Daughter” by Caroline (?) Snedeker. It’s a bit like “Goose Girl,” but set in ancient Greece.

    And finally, while I’m on “forgotten” books that might be a bit hard to track down, “They Loved to Laugh” by Kathryn Worth is about a timid orphan girl that gets taken into a family of rambunctious boys. It is full of laughter, romance, and eventually, tears. It reminds me a bit of Louisa May Alcott’s “Eight Cousins” and “Rose in Bloom.”

    I’ll have to try the newer “Goose Girl.” Please thank Rachel for her recommendation!

    • As always, you come through with riches! I think you are my source for “Mrs. Mike”. I think Rachel will be interested in another Goose Girl story. Grimm’s Fairy Tale of The Goose Girl is actually one I have never read!

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