In a novel that illustrates that there may be many definitions to the word “family”— Georgie lives with her mother (who is consistently called “Aunt Alex” in the text), her stepfather, two orphaned stepcousins, six cats, and the busts of various Transcendentalist philosophers (which are considered part of the family)—the theme of protection is prominent. Eleanor and Eddy’s Georgie Protection Society widens out to the environmental message conveyed in the metamorphosis of the blue-and-white ball. It is the responsibility of Georgie’s generation to meet the threats that endanger the earth, which range in The Fledgling from the beer cans floating in Walden Pond to hunters who justify their killing with assertions that they are maintaining the balance of nature. Georgie shows that she will be an able protector, having already saved a housefly from her uncle’s fly swatter and flown in the path of Ralph Preek’s buckshot to shield the Goose Prince.

In The Fledgling, Jane Langton weaves together the cycles of the natural world and those of the human. As the circle of the old goose’s life is brought to a close, the increasing shortness of Georgie’s red overalls, like pencil marks on a wall, records Georgie’s physical and emotional growth. Just as Georgie’s dream of wanting to fly is a fantasy shared by many children, Georgie provides young readers with a model for making one’s way through the later stages of childhood. Georgie is a “fledgling,” who exhibits the independence (she equips herself for her journey and sets off for Walden Pond alone) and belief in herself (she knows she can fly) that lay the foundation for the work ahead in adolescence, the finding of identity. Her development is helped by parents who sufficiently resist their own...

(The entire section is 738 words.)