Whistling Wings

Armchair Interviews - June 2008

No one in the publishing industry does beautifully illustrated, fun-filled, educational children’s books like Arbordale does. They are a joy to read and one never considers tossing them into the garage sale “free” bin. Not ever!

Whistling Wings is no exception. Written by a professor of Russian language and literature at Carlton College in Minnesota, Laura Goering gives children (and adults) an exciting story that also educates ever so subtly.

Marcel is a very young tundra swan who is weary from the journey required to migrate. The thousands of miles are long and tedious. Without thinking about consequences, Marcel hides so the other swans (including his parents) leave to fly south without him. It’s not very long before Marcel understands that he’s not meant to live on the ice.

A variety of animals offer him suggestions about surviving the winter, but the suggestions are how they survive and not suited at all for a swan. Marcel realizes he made a big mistake and there’s no undoing that mistake. Or is there? Okay, you know what the next line is. You have to read the story to discover if Marcel is able to escape the deadly winter and join his parents and flock in the sunny south.

Writing a good story for children is important, but the illustrations really sell a book–and Laura Jacques illustrations are breathtaking. The pictures are simply meant to be framed, and the fact that they are in a children’s book, is a bonus for everyone.

All of Arbordale books offer great information and fun facts about their books’ subject matter. There is always a section at the end of the story devoted to that. As an added bonus, readers can also go to their web site for some teaching activities, interactive quizzes and other resources for learning.

Armchair Interviews says: Every library and school should have this book. Oh, it should also be in every child’s personal library.

Stories for Children Magazine - Aug 2008

This is one of the most beautifully written and illustrated books I've ever seen! This charming tale, written by Minnesota author Laura Goering, exudes warmth, friendliness, and love. Even the title is beautiful! Marcel is a young whistling swan, also known as a tundra swan, that lands with his parents and flock on a beautiful lake.  This is their new home for a few months, so Marcel feasts on the lake goodies such as wild celery and sago pondweed and plays with the other young swans.  He was so happy because he didn't have to fly anywhere.  As winter approaches, the flock leaves and Marcel is left behind because he hid while the flock left. He soon misses his parents and realizes he is now all alone. Other animals take pity on him and offer suggestions on how he can find food and a home for winter. But, nothing they suggest and he tries works. You'll just have to read this story to find out if Marcel survives winter on his own. This book gets a high five for keeping the reader's interest from beginning to end, creativity, beautiful illustrations, and beautiful text. A future classic and a present day "must read" and "must have" for sure!

As with all Arbordale Books, there is an educational section at the end of this book entitled: For Creative Minds, which is also available online.  This section includes: Tundra Swan Fun Facts, Tundra Swan Life Cycle Sequencing Activity, Migration Fun Facts, and an Animal Adaptation Matching Activity.

In addition, readers can find cross-curricular “Teaching Activities,” an audio reading, child-friendly “Learning Links,” and comprehension and math quizzes for free at
- Gayle Jacobson-Huset, Managing Editor

Mom Central - Dec 2008

In this great children's book by Laura Goering, Marcel the swan is enjoying his lifestyle in his new tundra home with his parents and the other swans in the flock. He eats plants from the bottom of the lake and flies in formation all around the air. When his father announces that it is time to continue heading south for the winter, Marcel is scared of the long flight and hides from the flock, which means he's on his own when the others leave without him. The cute seasonal story combined with the truly beautiful illustrations by Laura Jacques make this a great bedtime or story time read. Your children will love finding out how it ends! The educational supplement at the back of the book make a great addition. You'll enjoy this book as much as your child!

Amazing Kids! eZine - Nov 2008

What do you get when you cross a swan, a lake, and a chilly season sneaking up on them both? Whistling Wings is most certainly not your average everyday picture book. With Laura Goering's easy-to-imagine storyline and Laura Jacques' illuminant, life-like illustrations, this tale of a little swan who stays behind will be read over and over again...especially if you like animals!

Marcel, a young, Tundra Swan, seems to be the odd one out during migration season. He knows it'll be safe to fly away with his mom and dad, but on migration day, he's to scared to take to the sky, so he hides until all the swans leave...including his parents.

His parents?! Opps. He'll never be able to find his own way. Now Marcel is left to face the chilly tundra on his own. He discovers how other animals brave the cold, but he decides that none of the ways are suitable for a swan. Just as he settles into a miserable sleep, he hears a noise.

YES! Could it be? Possibly?
Of course, every fairy tale has a good ending. So I'm not going to spoil this one by telling you what happens, ok? Read this easy-to-enjoy, fantastic tale to appreciate the happy ending, yourself.

BIG PLUS: At the end of the book, there's a section called "For Creative Minds" with fun facts and cool information on the animals in Whistling Wings. Common...what Animal Lover could pass up that kind of happily-ever-after ending?
- Reviewed by Brittany, Student Editor-in-Chief

Children's Literature Comprehensive Database - Aug 2008

Powerful verbs paint beautiful scenes in this migration tale featuring Marcel, a young swan. The tale begins with Marcel, his parents, and a large swan flock pausing to rest and eat at a large lake. The lake is rich in food and Marcel loves it. However, he learns of a one thousand mile journey the flock has yet to make and he becomes disenchanted. He hides when the swan flock departs so he does not have to make the trip. He soon sees the error he has made when the lake begins to freeze and food is scarce. While alone, a muskrat, eagle, and raccoon willingly show Marcel how to make a home and what to eat. But to Marcel’s dismay, their ways are not the ways of geese and he ends up cold, hungry, and scared. Finally, as he hovers near a log in the moonlight he hears the welcome whistling call of his parents who have returned to find him. The reunion is happy, his parents help him find food, and Marcel is ready to take off on the long journey he did not want to undertake before. This captivating story works well to teach about migration. It also includes a good lesson. Rich, realistic illustrations capture the wintery scenes. Unique borders enrich some illustrated pages. Text and illustrations combine in a perfect blend to produce a heart-warming tale. This book could be used to supplement science lessons.
- Nancy Attebury

IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award Judges - July 2009

“Beautiful pictures! Love the twinkling star effect! The frame of ice is neat on the page where they break through the ice. Very easy to read—pictures are wonderful!”

“This is a beautiful book with bright illustration. Good use of color. The last few pages offer facts that add to the story."

Midwest Book Review - Aug 2008

One thousand miles isn't an easy trip for Marcel, a young swan. "Whistling Wings" is his story of staying north for the winter, and being forced to adapt to the frigid winter months. An educational book about swan's lives, featuring beautiful oil painting illustrations by Laura Jacques, "Whistling Wings" is a grand pick for any community library children's picturebook collection. - July 2008

Pros: Illustrations, Marcel, Tundra swan facts, adaptations, life lesson
Cons: ...
The Bottom Line: Bird migration can be harsh, but this charming book only hints at that aspect while introducing young readers to a tundra swan in the middle of his first migration.

The harsh realities of migration stories can be too much for young readers, but simplified versions can introduce valuable concepts for understanding without depressing children (or adults). Whistling Wings by Laura Goering tells the story of a young tundra swan who became tired of flying on his first migration and decides to hide and remain behind. He soon regrets his decision.

Marcel, the young tundra swan, was pleased to land in a beautiful patch of water with the other members of the flock. He followed his parents into the water, ate, drank, and slept. He adored his new home and thought for sure they would stay. After a while, though, his father announced they would be leaving the next day. What!?

"Marcel woke up exhausted. No way, he thought. I can’t fly all that way. And he waddled into the rushes to hide. The morning stillness was broken by the sound of squawking swans, soft at first, then building to a tremendous noise."

He remained hidden and then they were all gone. You know that feeling of indecision after you made the decision, well; Marcel immediately experienced that feeling of uneasiness in the pit of his stomach. He slid on to the ice and began to cry. This is the point where a few of the year-round residents approached him with advice on how to survive. A muskrat, eagle, and raccoon all offered help, but unfortunately their adaptations just didn’t suit this swan. As hard as he tried he couldn’t curl up in a log, he didn’t eat fish, and certainly couldn’t swim underwater or under the ice.

Marcel found himself having difficulty remembering what it was like to be warm, full, and with family. The ice was closing and the food had disappeared. Off in the distance, however, he heard a familiar hoo-hoo-hooing and he saw two ghostly, but familiar shapes circling the lake.

My Thoughts: The author, Laura Goering, was inspired by an actual migratory flight of tundra swans. Although she is a professor of Russian literature and language, this is her first book, and between her inspiration and the influence of Russian literature I feel as though this book is almost a fairy tale. It’s charming as well as educational; however, this is made more endearing thanks to the illustrations provided by Laura Jacques.

Several very moving and emotional images will impress both the younger and the older readers. Marcel standing alone looking out at the frozen lake, just as he began to cry, will pull at some strings. On the flip side, the reunion scene where the parents and Marcel wrap themselves together almost makes the heart leap for joy. It is so sweet.

This book creates the feeling of a new fairy tale or a classic story of migrating swans.

It’s Also a Book from Arbordale Publishing, which means that…

Visit the website ( for teaching activities, interactive quizzes, English and Spanish audio, learning links (to other age appropriate websites), alignment to national and some state science and math standards, and more. Read the author information and conduct a geography lesson. The author explained that tundra swans migrated to Alma, Wisconsin, every year from their breeding grounds in northern Canada. They remained at the lakes near Alma before heading to the Chesapeake Bay area for their winter home.

Each page of this book is beautiful and the story of Marcel’s plight and lack of desire for flight is sweet and moving. I suspect there is another lesson in this that many children will realize. Each time they decide against their parent’s wiser wishes they often also find themselves in an uncomfortable predicament. Life is full of learning experiences, especially when you’re really young and Marcel’s lesson could have been much harsher.

Preschool teachers and early elementary teachers will definitely find value in this, but parents of children four to six will enjoy sharing Whistling Wings, a charming story based on the real life of tundra swans and their migration.
Recommended: Yes

Laura Williams' Musings - Sept 17, 2008

A gorgeously illustrated book about  a young tundra swan who gets left behind by his flock and discovers the friendship and helpfulness of other native birds and animals that come to his rescue.

Your child will love reading or having the book read to them while learning about the various animals and how they survive during winter.

The book is well written and is a delight to read to younger children as well as for readers to read by themselves.

It makes a wonderful addition to a child's library or homeschooling family's library.  In the back of the book is some fun educational facts to help spark the love of learning in your child.

In the Pages - Aug 2008

Of course - bird books are right up there in my book!  So Whistling Wings by Laura Goering and illustrated by Laura Jacques was one of my favorites!  It is the story of a tundra swan and his first adventure with migration.  That is why I LOVE Arbordale - their stories are such great teaching tools.  You get information on birds, migration, tundra life, the list goes on and on.  AND the teaching tools on their website are FABULOUS!!

Susan Gilchrist, author One Bird - Two Habitats - June 2008

The author of “Whistling Wings”, Laura Goering, demonstrates affection for the migrating swans as she brings one young swan to life in language that is comfortable, natural, and easy for parents and educators to read to young children.  The book follows a storyline appropriate to young children, who can identify with the swan “child” who is tired of traveling and doesn’t want to leave when his parents do, sad and frightened when he finds himself alone, and happy and secure when he reunites with his parents.  The book presents opportunities for teaching about nature, migration, ways animals survive winter, and adaptations that help different animals survive in different ways.  One inherent lesson is that there is more than one way to manage, and each of us has to find the way that is best for us.  

The artwork adds to the comprehension of the story with illustrations done in blues and greens of a sunny day in Wisconsin and the soft, warm colors of sunsets and violet skies.  The pictures flow as easily as the language and stay right with the story, stimulating the creation of additional images in the minds of the viewers while inviting the reader into the story.  The inclusion of a picture of the swan trying to squeeze his bottom into the log shows that the artist, Laura Jacques, understands humor that children enjoy, while the image of the reunited swan family hugging each other is priceless in rapture.

M. G. Paregian - September 2019

With beautiful artwork and dramatic adventures, the story begins. The reader would not believe the fun these beautiful swans have &emdash; but they do! And here's proof. This is a very well-prepared story, with its inclusive artwork &emdash; certain to be enjoyed by very young readers.