Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Big Goose and the Little White Duck

by Meindert DeJong
169 pages / 1938

It all begins with a big boy buying his mother a big goose for her birthday present – she's always wanted one for a pet. But there is just one problem: to buy the goose he had to borrow money from his gruff grandfather.

Now the grumpy old man was more than happy to loan the money but only because he misunderstood what the big boy intended. He thought the boy was buying it for his birthday – for his eighty-eighth birthday just a few months away. He thought the big boy was buying it so that grampa could, for the first time in his long life, have a taste of roast goose.

So when they get the big goose home the grandfather stakes his own claim to the goose. He is going to eat it...unless the goose proves to be useful around the farm in some way.

This was a great read-out-loud book to share with my young daughters. Meindert DeJong keeps his sentences quite short, but there is a rhythm to them, and a flow from one to the next. The big goose is an excitable character, and the grandfather likes to bellow, which means that I got to be loud too. There is a lot of energy in this book so long as the reader is willing to let himself go and just scream and shout right along with this goose and this grump.

Now, if there is a villain in this piece, it is basically the grandfather, which struck me as a bit strange. I was also a bit leery because there are many books where the dad is just a big dumb goof, and this has a little bit of that, with the grandfather filling in for the dumb dad role (the boy's father is absent without explanation). But I think that would only be a worry if grandfathers started to become a common villain in more books. That it happens this one time is really not a problem – my girls were able to understand that grandfathers have a special role, and deserve respect, and need love, even if this grumpy gus wasn't really living up to any of that.

DeJong was an accomplished writer, winning both the Hans Christian Anderson and Newbery awards for children's literature, so while this is an oldie (1938!) it remains an absolute must-read. If mom or dad are reading it, this is good for ages 4 and up. If the child is reading it, this is at least a late Grade One book, and maybe more of a Grade Two title.

You can buy a copy at by clicking here and at here. Canadians can also get it here at where many other Dutch heritage children's books can be found.


  1. Thanks so much for this recommendation. It really is such a great and fun read! We actually liked the fact that the grandfather was a grump and then changed at the end - a beautifully redeemed character. Have you ever read any other DeJong's books? I think he is a master of showing child's feelings of helplessness, hope, faith etc. He is also unsurpassed in dealing with really difficult subjects like fear, mistreatment, prejudice- and it always comes out even in the end. We also loved Shadrach, The Wheel on the School, Along Came the Dog, and Hurry Home Candy.

  2. We haven't read any others yet, but look forward to doing so - I have The Wheel on the School waiting on the bookshelf :)