The Snow Goose

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A stunning new edition of a beloved children’s classic.

On the desolate Essex marshes, a young girl, Fritha, comes to seek help from Philip Rhayader, a recluse who lives in an abandoned lighthouse. She carries in her arms a wounded snow goose that has been storm-tossed across the Atlantic from Canada. Fritha is frightened of Rhayader, but he is gentler than his appearance suggests and nurses the goose back to health. Over the following months ...
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A stunning new edition of a beloved children’s classic.

On the desolate Essex marshes, a young girl, Fritha, comes to seek help from Philip Rhayader, a recluse who lives in an abandoned lighthouse. She carries in her arms a wounded snow goose that has been storm-tossed across the Atlantic from Canada. Fritha is frightened of Rhayader, but he is gentler than his appearance suggests and nurses the goose back to health. Over the following months and years, Fritha visits the lighthouse when the snow goose is there. And every summer, when it flies away, Thayader is left alone once more.

The Snow Goose is set in the years running up to the evacuation of Dunkirk in the Second World War. Originally published in 1940 in the Saturday Evening Post, it was brought out in book form the following year by Knopf, Michael Joseph and M&S simultaneously. It won the prestigious O Henry prize that same year and has been continually in print ever since. The Snow Goose has inspired a number of musical scores and albums, has been made into two feature films and moved generations of readers. A new feature film will be released in the coming year.

Beautifully written, with a powerful ending, and breathtakingly illustrated, this is an exquisite edition of Gallico’s masterpiece.

Against the backdrop of World War II, friendship develops between a lonely crippled painter and a village girl, when together they minister to an injured snow goose.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007:
"A tale of exquisite sentimentality and storytelling gains new appeal in Barrett's magical hands . . . a lovely reworking for a whole new audience."

Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
The original story used for this picture book was published in late 1940 after the Battle of Dunkirk. It is the story of Philip Rhayader, a painter who has become a recluse because of his unwillingness to endure the taunts and pity of the townspeople due to his hunched back. However, when twelve-year-old Frith brings a wounded Canadian snow goose to Philip, it is the beginning of a gentle friendship as the little girl watches the lonely man nurse the goose they call the Princesse back to health. Eventually, the Princesse leaves, only to return to make her home permanently by Philip's lighthouse. So, too, does Frith return to the lighthouse, eventually realizing, as does Philip, that they love each other. However, before they can profess their feelings, the Battle of Dunkirk erupts. Any man who can sail a vessel is asked to sail to the Channel and save as many of the stranded and injured British soldiers as he can. Philip leaves with the Princesse flying behind him, and the two become a story of hope among the soldiers. The illustrations that accompany this version of the story are beautiful in their simplicity; using pencil, graphite, watercolor, and gouache, the artist creates a vivid picture of the characters and the battle scenes. This is one of those great matches between story and art. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
VOYA - Sarah Cofer
Gallico originally wrote this story after the Battle of Dunkirk, telling the short tale of Philip Rhayader, a secluded hunchback living in a lighthouse in 1930s Essex. One day, a young girl, Frith, brings a wounded bird to Rhayader's lighthouse because legend holds that he can heal injured animals. The injured snow goose from Canada brings about an unlikely friendship between deformed Rhayader and timid Frith as the bird migrates to the lighthouse each year. For Rhayader, time is now measured by the arrival and departure of the snow goose and more important, Frith. When Rhayader is called away to help rescue stranded British soldiers, Frith worries that he might not return. This classic short story portrays the theme of "beauty lies in the eye of the beholder." In its short pages, the book offers beautiful illustrations, detailed descriptions, interesting characters, and a sad but fascinating story. The writing style is slightly dated, and the colloquial dialogue used by some of the characters might turn off some readers. Even though the story is well written and interesting, it looks like a children's picture book and will require lots of pushing. Perhaps readers will find it if it is placed in a graphic novel collection, but consider the reintroduced book a minor purchase for collections serving middle and high school students.
School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up
Gallico's classic story of the selflessness of a goodhearted recluse speaks volumes to readers accustomed to a world plagued by self-gratification. Philip Rhayader, a deformed misfit, inhabits an abandoned lighthouse near the English Channel, where he pours out his feelings in his paintings of wildlife and in his care for the birds to which he gives sanctuary. When 12-year-old Frith takes Philip a wounded snow goose, the two form a bond. The goose returns annually, and Philip and Frith grow in their fondness for each other. During World War II, when hundreds are stranded at Dunkirk, Philip, with only the goose as a companion and under heavy enemy fire, tirelessly sails soldiers to safety. Later, when the bird returns alone to the lighthouse, Frith's worst fears are confirmed, and she is left with nothing but Philip's paintings and her memories of a love she never expressed. The beautifully written but somewhat complex text uses unfamiliar vocabulary, and the occasional dialogue is rendered in a strong Essex dialect. However, the overall story is clear, poignant, and still relevant years after its original publication (1940). Barrett's inset and full-page pencil drawings, done in soft pastel tones, perfectly complement the tale's serious nature, capturing the spareness of the landscape and the intensity of the characters' feelings. Sure to provoke thoughtful discussions, this book is an excellent way to introduce a new generation to Gallico's timeless tale.
—Nancy Menaldi-ScanlanCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-- A newly illustrated 50th anniversary edition of a classic. This brief literary fairy tale of the dark, reclusive hunchback with a gift for love and healing; the timid country girl; and the wounded snow goose that brings them together is undeniably sentimental. Certain aspects of the story may seem dated to today's readers, and they probably won't be drawn to an adult heroine depicted as so primitive and inarticulate that ``She did not understand war or what happened in France,'' and Rhayader must explain it to her ``in terms she could understand.'' The addition of painterly oil illustrations with a suitable romantic quality and an attractive book design make this a handsome package. No doubt, a new generation of young romantics will sigh with satisfying heartbreak as Fritha watches the soaring snow goose that she sees as ``the soul of Rhayader taking farewell of her before departing forever.'' --Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Greenwich, CT
Hazel Rochman
Gallico's classic adult novella, first published in 1941 after Dunkirk in the dark times of World War II, is reissued here in a large fiftieth-anniversary illustrated edition. It's the story of a hunchbacked artist, Rhayader, who lives as a recluse in a lonely lighthouse. One day a beautiful young village child asks him to help her save a wounded snow goose. They care for it until it's strong enough to fly away. Then at the time of the Battle of Dunkirk, when every civilian craft in England is called on to rescue soldiers from the sea, Rhayader makes trip after trip in his sailboat through the enemy fire, watched over by the great white snow goose, like an angel of mercy ("white sail and white bird"), until he disappears. The story's a tearjerker, complete with resurrection imagery, and Peck's full-page impressionistic oil paintings are idealized. The land- and seascapes are beautiful, and so is everything else. The hunchback is barely deformed, the girl is angelic (no sign in the pictures of the "grime" Gallico talks about), and in the end she's an exquisite white-clad maiden bidding sad farewell to the pure white bird. It's all as soppy and brave as any melodrama, and lots of kids will love it as much as their parents and grandparents did. The portrayal of an ordinary hero in wartime, as well as the transformation of an outsider who stands tall at last, are enduring in their appeal.
Kirkus Reviews
A tale of exquisite sentimentality and storytelling gains new appeal in Barrett's magical hands. Gallico's tale of the snow goose was first published in 1940, just after the Battle of Dunkirk, when thousands of British and French troops were rescued from the Germans by hundreds of small British boats. Philip Rhayader, a man crippled in body and spirit, lives alone in a lighthouse on the Essex coast, painting pictures and caring for the marsh birds. A wild young girl named Frith brings him an injured snow goose, somehow lost from Canada. He heals the goose, and the girl and bird return to him, warily but faithfully, season after season. Eventually Frith is grown, and feels stirrings of something else for the artist. Then it's the spring of 1940, and Philip goes out across the water, the goose with him, to rescue those trapped soldiers on Dunkirk beach, seven at a time. Fritha knows he's lost then and realizes what she has found, only to lose. Barrett approaches the story with a softness that matches the tone. The drawings are in graphite and pencil, with an occasional piece in color that lightens the mood. A lovely reworking for a whole new audience. (Historical fiction. 11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375849787
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 9/11/2007
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Gallico was born in New York in 1892. He became a minor celebrity as a sports writer and then began writing short stories for magazines. Gallico went on to write many more short stories and novels, including The Poseidon Adventure in 1969. He died in 1976.

Angela Barrrett is one of the most highly acclaimed British illustrators. She studied at the Royal College of Art and has illustrated a number of picture books, including a retelling of Anne Frank that has been translated into twelve different languages. Angela has won the Smarties Book Prize and the WHSmith Illustration Award. She lives in London, England.
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Read an Excerpt

One November afternoon, three years after Rhayander had come to the Great Marsh, a child approached the lighthouse studio by means of the sea wall. In her arms she carried a burden.

She was no more than twelve, slender, dirty, nervous and timid as a bird, but beneath the grime as eerily beautiful as a marsh faery. She was pure Saxon, large-boned, fair, with a head to which her body was yet to grow, and deep-set, violet-coloured eyes.

She was desperately frightened of the ugly man she had come to see, for legend had already begun to gather about Rhayader, and the native wild-fowlers hated him for interfering with their sport.

But greater than her fear was the need of that which she bore. For locked in her child’s heart was the knowledge, picked up somewhere in the swampland, that this ogre who lived in the lighthouse had magic that could heal injured things.

She had never seen Rhayader before and was close to fleeing in panic at the dark apparition that appeared at the studio door, drawn by her footsteps — the black head and beard, the sinister hump, and the crooked claw. She stood there staring, poised like a disturbed marsh bird for instant flight.

But his voice was deep and kind when he spoke to her.

‘What is it child?’

She stood her ground, and then edged timidly forward. The thing she carried in her arms was a large white bird, and it was quite still. There were stains of blood on its whiteness and on her kirtle where she had held it to her.

The girl placed it in his arms. ‘I found it, sir. It’s hurted. Is it still alive?’

‘Yes. Yes, I think so. Come in, child, comein.’

Rhyander went inside, bearing the bird, which he placed upon a table, where it moved feebly. Curiosity overcame fear. The girl followed and found herself in a room warmed by a coal fire, shining with many coloured pictures that covered the walls, and full of a strange but pleasant smell.

The bird fluttered. With his good hand Rhayader spread on of its immense white pinions. The end was beautifully tipped with black.

Rhayader looked and marvelled, and said: ‘Child: where did you find it?’

‘In t’ marsh, sir, where fowlers had been. What — what is it, sir?’

‘It’s a snow goose from Canada. But how in all heaven came it here?’

The name seemed to mean nothing to the little girl. Her deep violet eyes, shining out of the dirt on her thin face, were fixed with concern on the injured bird.

She said: ‘Can ‘ee heal it, sir?’

‘Yes, yes,’ said Rhayader. ‘We will try. Come, you shall help me.’

There were scissors and bandages and splints on a shelf, and he was marvelously deft, even with the rooked claw that managed to hold things.

He said: ‘Ah, she has been shot, poor thing. Her leg is broken, and the wing tip! but not badly. See, we will clip her primaries, so that we can bandage it, but in the spring the feathers will grow and she will be able to fly again. We’ll bandage it close to her body, so that she cannot move it until it has set, and then make a splint for the poor leg.’

Her fears forgotten, the child watched, fascinated, as he worked, and all the more so because while he fixed a fine splint to the shattered leg he told her the most wonderful story.
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2011

    My favorite book.

    This is a beautiful, haunting story by Paul Gallico, who is my favorite author. This edition is perfectly illustrated, to match the style and emotion of the story. I also own a copy of the first edition. I have given this book as a gift on two occasions.

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