Flightless GooseMy son’s bedtime is my favorite time of the day, not just because it means I’m looking at a few hours of peace and quiet, but because it’s our story time. Jake shares my near-obsessive love for books, so cuddling up together and reading a new story is pretty much as good as it gets. We both really enjoyed The Flightless Goose by Eric D. Goodman, illustrated by Nataliya A. Goodman. The story of Gilbert, a sweet goose who hurts his wings and looses his ability to fly, then suffers ridicule from his friends, only to end up saving the day, is now high on our list of favorites. Jake loves that, even though Gilbert is different, he still manages to beat the “bad guys.” I love that the story has so many messages, from teaching tolerance towards those who are different to showing how those differences can sometimes be the one thing that saves everyone from being cooked for supper.

Eric Goodman is joining Pretty Opinionated today and will be available to answer any questions you may have, or just chat a bit about the adventures of Gilbert. To get this party started, I asked Eric a few questions of my own. My questions are in bold. Thank you, Eric, for visiting my blog today and for doing this interview!

The Flightless Goose presents several strong, positive messages to children, all neatly wrapped up in the story line so they’re not overwhelming. For example, my son took away from the story that being different can be a really good thing, and can even save lives in unexpected ways. What overall message were you hoping to provide throughout the story?

First and foremost, I wanted to tell a good story that children would enjoy.  But there are definitely messages I wanted to get across, and you seem to have picked up on them.  The main point is that everyone is different and that is a good thing.  That people should focus on their strengths and what they’re able to do instead of their weaknesses and what they aren’t able to do.  And, of course, coping with disability or difficult situations was a strong theme.

I read that the story of Gilbert is based on a real goose who was wounded and unable to fly south for the winter with his flock. What ever became of the real Gilbert?

It was about 12 years ago when we last saw Gilbert, where we used to live on a lake in Columbus, Ohio.  We haven’t been back to see him since we moved to Baltimore.  But I’d like to imagine he’s living a comfortable life.  During the time that we lived there, he really did survive the winters alone with the help of us neighbors and our bread crumbs.

The illustrations in the book are definitely unique- almost like Norman Rockwell paintings. What did Nataliya use for inspiration?

Nataliya was born and raised in Russia, so many of the illustrations she grew up with served as her inspiration.  The fairy tale books she had showed realistic animals wearing clothes and in human situations — not quite as cartoonish as American cartoon characters.  That background gave Gilbert and his friends an interesting look.

“The Flightless Goose” is written for young children, so tell me about your favorite book as an elementary school child?

As a younger child, I loved Dr. Seuss best.  And Eric Carle, Maurice Sendek, and Shel Silverstein.   When I was old enough to read chapter books, I really liked The Hobbit, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.

Is “The Flightless Goose” meant to be a stand-alone book, or will we be seeing more of Gilbert in the future?

It’s a stand-alone book.  But I think there may eventually be a sequel.  Gilbert may get a vacation.  At school events, children seem to want to see Gilbert go to school, too.

I read that you also write other types of fiction. What upcoming projects do you have in the works right now?

My novel in stories, Tracks, is coming out this week! Tracks is an adult novel that takes place on a train.  Each chapter is a story of a passenger on the train, but they link together to form a full novel.  The strangers on the train get to know one another and touch each other in meaningful ways.   You can learn more about it at www.TracksNovel.com, where you can listen to radio readings, read excerpts, see a schedule of events, and even get a copy of the book!

Tell me a little more about the Pajama Program that the Flightless Goose has partnered with.Will this be an ongoing partnership or is there a deadline?

For every copy of Flightless Goose that sells, the publisher is donating one dollar to The Pajama Program.  They provide warm sleepwear and nurturing books to children in need.  It will be up to the publisher, how long the partnership continues. But I hope it continues for awhile because I’m all for providing clothing and books for children.