Often when visitors come to my office they walk in and observe, “This isn’t an office. It’s an aquarium!” They aren’t far off except that the fish are not alive, but carved figures I have collected them from all over the world.
Lately visitors ignore the fish figures and want to know about the goose. It’s a noble bird that sits at a place of honor in the middle of my desk. Her name is Odette and her story that begins some years ago when our friends, John and Nota McGreevey invited Jane and me to join them on a barge cruse on the Canal du Midi that winds its way from Bordeaux to Toulouse.
It was autumn in France and I was back in a country I love. I first came to France as a soldier in World War Two. Now I was back as a tourist. It was autumn and the plane trees along the canal were golden yellow. The food on the barge was superlative and the scenery was magical. The canal wound it s way through small villages and farmland. Each view was memorable and unique.
It was at a small village along the canal where I came upon my first Toulouse goose. It was a gorgeous creature with gray feathers laced with whiter and its expressive eyes were huge and brown. Our guide from the barge pointed out that it was still young but later it would be force fed copious amounts of grain until its liver was huge and then the goose would be slaughtered and its liver made into pate, or as the guide described it “a culinary delight.”
And the guide said all these dreadful things right in front of the poor goose, and when she leaned forward toward me and looked at me with those big brown eyes I could tell that she had heard and understood every word.
That was when the inspiration came to write ODETTE, A GOOSE OF TOULOUSE. In the book Odette is destined to die for her liver, but because she is endowed with a special gift she saves her own life in a most surprising way.
The book is illustrated by the students in Judith Victoria Hensley’s 6th Grade class at Wallins Elementary and Junior High School in Wallins Creek, Kentucky. Judith Hensley is a teacher, writer, and photographer and under her guidance her pupils have created illustrations that are original, artful, and at times quite innocent and at other time most sophisticated. As far as I know this is the first time a book has been illustrated by school children.
“ODETTE, A GOOSE OF TOULOUSE” is available from Amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble.com. It can be ordered through your local bookstore or directly from the publisher at:
P. O. Box 1129
Duncan, OK. 73534-1129
Have a good read, and if you own a goose = be kind!