What You Need to Know:|
• A witch turns a mischievous young boy into a goose until he can perform three good deeds.
• This book can be a nice conversation starter.
• Although it shares a serious message, the story is told in a light and humorous way.
• Readers will get a good idea of what it is like to be a goose, down to the fact that they "poop" a lot.
• Spoiler alert * At the end of the story, the witch dies unexpectedly.
Howard is not exactly the model of good behavior. He joins in when the other kids tease an ugly old lady, and he lets a friend take all the blame when they get caught making a mess. It isn't until that old lady catches him stealing goose eggs, near her pond, that he begins to understand the consequences of his actions.
That old lady turns out to be a witch, and she decides to teach Howard a lesson. She changes him into a goose and explains that he can't become a boy again until he performs three good deeds. Not an easy task for Howard. It takes him a long time to figure out what qualifies as a good deed and even longer to realize that it isn't just the deed, but it is the motivation behind it. Over the next few months, Howard makes progress with his good deeds and adjusts to life as a goose. He gets to know fellow geese with names like "Almost-Eaten-by-a-Fox" and he learns the ins and outs of the goose community. With plenty of time to think, he also contemplates things like what happened to his clothes when he was turned into a goose, and will he be wearing anything if and when he turns back into a boy? He even comes to understand the old woman and discovers that he actually feels compassion toward her.
Although this funny book offers a valuable lesson, the storyline is limited and almost feels like it could just as easily have been told within the confines of a picture book. That being said, Howard's story is entertaining and easy to follow. The lessons are straightforward, the chapters are relatively short, and there are only a few characters to remember.
Vivian Vande Velde
2007, 160 pages
Animals, Behavior, Books for Boys, Character/Values, Folk Tales/Fables, Humor
• Do you know anyone like Howard? Would you like to be friends with Howard?
• Was the witch mean? In what ways?
• Did Howard deserve to be turned into a goose? Why or why not?
• Could Howard's parents have done anything to prevent him from being turned into a goose?
• What do you think of Howard's three good deeds?
• What lesson did Howard learn in the end?
• What do you think Howard will be like after he becomes a boy again? In what ways will he be different?
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