“Some people are born with the first word of a language resting on their tongue, though it may take some time before they can taste it.”
In bestselling author Shannon Hale’s first book in her Books of Bayern series, the Goose Girl, Ani does not want to be a princess. She has spent her life trying to emulate her mother the queen, but lacks what her aunt calls the gift of People Speaking. Instead, Ani has the gift of Animal Speaking. Worried that the people of their kingdom will not follow such an odd girl, the queen sends Ani to marry the neighboring country of Bayern’s prince. On the road with her company of guards, Ani is attacked and she flees to the city, concealing her identity for fear of her life.
This story, in a single word, is captivating. The depth that Hale goes to with her worlds and the wittiness of her dialogue is breathtaking. She actually includes legitimate politics in her story, such as the discrimination between the city dwellers of Bayern and the people of the Forest. The magic system is based on the ability to speak languages–it’s so random and abstract, but it’s actually very believable. And the main character is so complex! Ani is insecure and shy but also brave and honest. She knows what she must do and she will stop at nothing to do it; she goes through a believable character arc of learning to take care of herself but also to be able to trust the people around her.
Though this book is marketed towards young adults, I think this book is most suitable for middle grade readers. I first read this when I was about eleven and I am glad I finally picked it back up–it was even more relatable than I remember it being when I was young. I’d also recommend this to any parents looking for a book to read with their kids. It is a fairytale best read at bedtime.
For those interested, Shannon Hale will be going to the National Book Festival this year and will have both a panel and a signing.
“… If we don’t tell strange stories, when something strange happens we won’t believe it.”
Story by Madison Lazenby
Edited by Mrs. Carmichael