School Library Journal Best Book of 1996
Horn Book Fanfare Selection
Phoenix Award 2016
First published in 1996
About the Story
I wrote Goose for my daughter when she was having a terrible time getting used to her first year of college. It was not intended as a book, but she suggested that since Ten, Nine, Eight had been so successful, this might be a good book as well. You never know just who is going to like a book, or why.
It turns out that people see Goose not only as a story for children, but often give it to young people who are about to go to college or into the work world, or to retirees who are about to enter some new phase of life. It is also, obviously, a book about the difficulties faced by an adoptive child—or by any child who feels she or he doesn't quite fit into the family.
About the time I was working on Goose, I was becoming more and more interested in comics, and I was given a book called Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud. This is the best book by far I've ever read on how comics work. In one of the sections, McCloud describes the various ways in which sequential art is used in comics, and he defines six categories:
- moment-to-moment, in which an object in a picture changes slightly its position or size or shape from one frame to the next, for example, a spider comes a little closer to a sleeper's mouth.
- action-to-action: in one frame a batter stands watching an incoming baseball; in the next he hits it.
- subject to subject, while staying within a scene or idea: a racer runs through and breaks a tape; a hand holding a watch presses down the stop button
- scene-to-scene transitions involving changes in time and/or subject: a man comforts a crying woman saying "There's no way he could have survived"; a man sitting alone on a desert island.
- aspect-to-aspect, showing different viewpoints of the same scene in order to set up a mood, place or idea: a Christmas tree; Santa in the snow.
- non-sequitur, showing no meaningful relationship between the frames whatsoever.
I decided to see if I could use at least one example of each of these different categories in Goose, except I wasn't so interested in the sixth. So the egg rolling out of the next shows category one, the photographs and the friends floating down the river show category five, in a sense the feather and the falling bird show category three, the second-to-final page with Goose returning home is a mix of two and one, the family and the friends trying to cheer her up are four, etc.
At the same time, I've always been interested in frames and borders, which modern comic books also take great delight in, so I was always playing with how they could interact in different ways that also enhanced the feeling I was trying to produce. One of the ones I think worked out best is that of Goose flying home, with the three little panels embedded in the shot of her as seen from below against the sky.
People don't often understand what sorts of changes editors make in books, and there's a good example of one in Goose: I had pretty much finished the book as a 32-page work. The editor, Bonnie Verburg, said she didn't feel there was enough tension between the picture of Goose stepping off the cliff and falling and the following picture of her flapping and regaining her equilibrium and learning to fly all in one. She felt there needed to be a transition picture that would build the suspense. I made the picture of the feather with falling Goose and the sea below, and we both agreed that this was much better, but now, since books are made in multiples of 8 pages, I had another six double pages to add. I added the dedication page with the Momma Goose running towards the nest, and then the other pages became the endpapers: two pasted down and two painted blue. The book is much better for the addition, I think.
Goose was a lot of fun to make. It was done in gouache with some colored pencil, on Bristol board. I have a family of woodchucks in my back yard, so I had plenty of models for them, and there are Canada Geese all around town, with multiple goslings. The goslings are actually not as yellow as I painted them; they are more of a soft khaki color when very young. The houses of woodchucks (or groundhogs) do indeed look like I painted theirs, with at least two entrance/exits, a large living unit and a separate room for the toilet. The only difference from the way they actually live is that Dad is usually chased out of the house by Mom as she is about to give birth. Rarely, very, very rarely, is he allowed to stick around while the babies are growing.
- Make a series of 3 frames for each of the six categories defined by McCloud.
- Look at different comic books that show examples of frames embedded in border pictures. (I especially recommend Bone by Jeff Smith.) Make a frame and a border that meaningfully relates to the frame.
- Make several frames and embed them in a larger border that changes or enhances the meaning or feeling of the frames.
copyright 2016 by Molly Bang