|About the Book|
The eponymous Albertine is a white goose who lives on an island in a pond on the seemingly idyllic Mudpuddle Farm. The farm is home to a lively community of animals and Farmer Rafferty, who one morning locks away his horse and cat to prevent them from running after an impending fox hunt. After being warned of the imminent danger from the fox hunt the other animals also follow suit by retreating to their barns. However, Albertine displays no sign of trepidation and remains sitting calmly on his island in the pond.After the hunt mob pass through the farmyard the animals emerge from the safety of their barns only to be confronted by the ‘sneaky smile’ of a fox crawling out of a bramble hedge. However, the fox soon wins the sympathy of the animals after explaining, rather disingenuously, that his wife and babies are ‘starving to death’. Albertine and the horse on the other hand appear sceptical about the fox’s sincerity. When the animals leave the yard in search of food for the fox and his family, the fox ceases the opportunity to attack Albertine. But the fox is quickly overwhelmed by Albertine’s noble disposition and her plea for him to spare her children. With the sudden tumult of the returning fox hunt he begs Albertine to save him and she agrees on the basis that he did not kill her and her goslings. After the fox hunt passes, Albertine is hailed as a ‘goose-queen’ by the fox.Michael Morpurgo’s delightful book contains various styles of story telling and presentation which converge to create a vivid sense of drama, movement and sound. Shoo Rayner’s illustrations combine comic-book style frames and speech bubbles with an abundance of onomatopoeia, some of which is presented upside-down, making the reading experience atmospheric and refreshingly enjoyable, albeit unconventional.Overall, the entertainment value is quite heavily weighted in the illustrations. This is because essentially most of the dialogue between the characters is ‘stitched’ into the fabric of the illustrations in the form of speech bubbles, which in turn serves as an anchor to the imagination of younger readers. Furthermore, apart from the obviously emotive issue of fox hunting the book also presents, with subtlety, some important underlying themes such as morality, compassion and communal politics in a format which is both accessible and suitable for younger readers. The vocabulary is proportional to key stage one and beyond and given the flair in the illustrations the book is probably best kept on the classroom bookshelf for independent reading.