Borka -The Adventures of a Goose with no Feathers

John Burningham

It’s hard to believe that this book is sixty years old this year. First published in 1963, I first read it as a child in my primary school library, then to my younger sisters and the children I cared for as an au pair. Borka was always a favourite in our book corner when I became a teacher, and most recently, my own children grew up hearing this classic story many times. I do not doubt that this book will be part of my library forever and I am very much looking forward to sharing it with the next generation of children whose lives I am lucky enough to be part of.

John Burningham is central to the British tradition of picture books. This story, like his other books, deals with key themes in children’s lives. Borka is a goose who is different from her brothers and sisters, and despite her mother’s efforts to ensure she feels comfortable, she doesn’t fit in. Ultimately forgotten by her family, Borka sets off on an adventure alone, and finds herself amidst unlikely companions. These characters become her friends and help her to find a place to settle down and become part of an accepting, stable family.

In a world where so many children experience loss, distress and trauma, it seems vital that we all find ways of talking about this with very young people, and reading Borka is a key opportunity.

The engaging and painterly illustrations use a range of techniques and perspectives. The animals are full of character and the landscapes they move through are pieces of art that still absorb me after nearly sixty years of reading.

I heartily recommend this book to new and old readers alike, and if it is your first time getting to know John Burningham books, how lucky you are to do this.

Published by Red Fox

Reviewed by Fiona McMorrow