January 19, 2024

Zander Stays

Written by Maureen Fergus
Illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Pajama Press
36 pp.
Ages 4-7
October 2023
Zander is a goose, a lovely white goose with bright orange legs and an orange bill. He's like the other geese except for this autumn when Zander decides to stay. While the other geese pack up to fly south for the winter, Zander decides he's going to try something different this year.
From Zander Stays, written by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Scot Ritchie
After his compadres have left, Zander enjoys new endeavours like jumping in leaf piles, and racing the wind. He may be alone, but he never feels lonely. But then winter arrives. He's advised by a squirrel that he should prepare for winter by collecting and storing nuts. Too bad he doesn't eat nuts. The other animals have their own advice for surviving the winter, but none seem to quite work for Zander. And though he enjoys his first encounter with snow, he soon realizes that he is at a disadvantage, and there is no one to help him.
From Zander Stays, written by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Miraculously, when Zander is about to give up, a little girl named Grace finds him and shows him what she does to survive the winter. Finally, Zander finds some adaptive techniques that work for him. And won't he have some wonderful stories to tell his friends when they return!
From Zander Stays, written by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Scot Ritchie
While it might not be recommended that wild geese like the snow goose not migrate as they normally would, Maureen Fergus has actually created a STEM story about migration and adaptation by having Zander stay. (Her "Author's Note" provides worthwhile information for young readers about how different animals adapt and what hibernation and migration mean.) It might be exciting to try something new but not migrating became a dangerous undertaking for Zander and one that he only survived with human help. With warm shelter and food, Zander learned from Grace that winter could be enjoyed but only with respite from the challenging conditions. Moreover, her compassion for Zander saves him, reminding children to be mindful of the needs of animals and their welfare.
From Zander Stays, written by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Scot Ritchie has illustrated both picture books and non-fiction texts (e.g., Federica; Dinos Driving; Follow That Map!; If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It; On the Line) and as such has demonstrated a deftness of touch for creating sweet and yet realistic artwork. In Zander Stays, Scot Ritchie gives us identifiable red squirrels, bats, a bear, a rabbit, and geese, but placed them in landscapes of lake shores, sunsets, and even a cozy home garnished with a fireplace, scattered winter clothing, artwork, and food. Any child reading this book will know the cool autumns of fallen leaves, the snowy cold winter days, and the warmth of being inside from Scot Ritchie's artwork. By using ink and digital watercolour art to give substance to Maureen Fergus's story, Scot Ritchie keeps it gentle–a story of a goose that might not survive the cold of winter definitely needs a light touch–and engaging, while still reminding us that survival is still an issue for animals in winter.
As different parts of Canada experience their own cold spells this winter,  help young children understand the basics of adaptation, about migration, and about animal welfare, while cheering for a silly goose who was fortunate to survive the winter with a little help from a friend.

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