Borka: The Adventures of a Goose With No Feathers


John Burningham, author and illustrator

London: Jonathan Cape, 1963

30 pp

Ages:  2 +

Interests: birds, geese, stories about not fitting in

Also by this author: Mr. Gumpy’s Outing, Avocado Baby, Come Away From the Water Shirley, Edwardo: The Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World, Courtney

The story of, obviously, a goose born with no feathers. Despite the total acceptance of her parents Mr. and Mrs. Plumpster (especially Mrs. P, who knits her a sweater), Borka finds herself left behind during migration. The other geese laugh at her appearance so she stays apart from the others and doesn’t learn how to fly. The neglect of her parents is never explained – it’s simply said that they are too ‘busy’ to notice she isn’t learning to fly with the others.

After she’s left behind she waddles onto a ship, makes friends with the dog and crew, helps out on board, and travels to London, where the Captain deposits her in Kew Gardens. There Borka meets a nice goose named Ferdinand and lives happily ever after

A bit of an updating of the Ugly Duckling, but without our heroine changing into something ‘beautiful’ at the end. The happy ending is simply that she finds a friend and a home. One wonders if Mr. and Mrs. Plumpster even noticed she was gone…

Atmospheric and vibrant paintings illustrate this simple story, the first children’s book by John Burmingham. Borka is charmingly understated, as with all of Burningham’s books, but lacking that extra dash of eccentricity… I mean, other than the fact that it’s about a featherless goose wearing a sweater. No extra tidbits to give personality to the characters, except for a nice mention near the start that Mr. Plumpster likes hissing even when nothing is threatening because it makes him feel important.

(An interesting comparison can be made between this tale and Make Way for Ducklings, another tale of ducks in a city park, with a very different illustrative style.)



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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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