________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 40 . . . . June 23, 2017

cover

The Goat.

Anne Fleming.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2017.
155 pp., hardcover & epub, $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55498-916-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-917-1 (epub).

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Susie Wilson.

**** /4

   

excerpt:

The goat woke in the near dark to a faint, wondrous smell. It drew him to his feet, led him to the ledge.

There. It came from over there, past the gray river of moving clumps. There, where the tree smell came from. There, where hope lay.

Grass.

Saliva flooded his mouth. He had to brave the clangy cliff. Now.

He trotted to the other side of his sad little mountain.

No point in wasting time. He leapt. With his footpads out, there was only the slightest clang as he landed. Then, before he knew it, he was
not going down the clangy cliff but taking his usual route ledge to ledge to the bucket.

Why?

Oh.

Hay. Hay was good.

Why had he been thinking of going down the clangy cliff? Had there been a smell? There had. A really good smell. He should really find it again. He should… Mmm, hay. He was at the hay. He was eating the hay. The goat didn't know much. But he knew these things:

    Danger come from above.     Danger comes from below.     Gamboling is the purest state of being.     Hunger is constant.     Choose the closest path to food.     Don't let hunger fool you. You're still in danger.

He bristled. There beyond the bucket was the face of the tree-ish creature that wanted to trap him and keep him in the cave. The hay was a trap! Leap away, leap away!

Anne Fleming's The Goat is an absolutely delightful read. A diverse cast of characters linked together through their apartment building drive The Goat in an incredibly engaging way. We have Lisa, Bob, and their daughter Kid, in the city for six months while Lisa's play gets ready to hit the stage off-Broadway; Johnathan, recovering from a stroke and resentful of his wife, Doris, who is taking care of him; Joff Vanderlinden, a blind skateboarding fantasy author; Will, orphaned during 9/11 and his grandmother who won't let him out of her sight; and Kenneth Gill, a nervous man who talks a bit too much about his pet guinea pigs. The characters tend to be borderline caricatures, which does make it a bit harder to get into reading than other books, but once settled into this world (where it seems like everyone has at least one character trait turned up to eleven) readers will feel right at home. Interspersed between glimpses into the lives of the humans that surround it, we see living on a roof in New York from the goat's perspective.

      The action starts when Kid, Lisa, and Bob arrive in New York from Toronto to dog and house-sit for Bob's cousin. Lisa has a play opening off-Broadway, Soccer Mom (adapted from the smash hit in Canada, Hockey Mom), and Bob's cousin, Doug, is off to England for vacation and has to leave his dog, Cat (short for Catherine the Great), behind. As Lisa struggles with feelings of inadequacy and guilt over changing her original vision to suit an American audience, Bob and Kid spend each day exploring their new home. The first day in their temporary home Kid sees something that just might be a goat on the roof of the apartment building. To start with, she's sure it can't be true, but then she learns that there is a rumour of exactly that, and that anyone who sees the goat will have seven years' good luck. The book allows readers to peek into the lives of these slightly connected people over the course of a few weeks, and, while the time spent with each of them is brief, they are all fully fleshed out by the end of the book. Joff struggles with writer's block, feelings of inadequacy in the face of his massive previous success, and with trying to find a woman whose voice he fell in love with over an afternoon chess game. Readers get to see both sides of the struggle of Johnathan and Doris; Doris just wants Johnathan to get better and come back to be the man he was before his stroke, and Johnathan just wants Doris to stop trying to force him to be better. Their relationship truly shines in spite of their stubbornness (and they are both equally stubborn) getting in the way of their feelings. Finally, we come to Kenneth. Kenneth, it turns out, does not have two guinea pigs, in spite of his habit of telling everyone just a bit too much about them. Kenneth buys all that hay to try and lure the goat back into his apartment. A truly touching vignette of Kenneth's trip to scatter his father's ashes finally reveal the origin of the goat on the roof.

      As important as the goat is to The Goat, the goat on the roof isn't really what this story is about. This story is about personal growth and overcoming the obstacles that we set out in front of ourselves. I know, I know, it sounds cheesy, but instead it's absolutely delightful to drop in on the lives of these people brought together by a mountain goat on a roof in New York City. Kid, for example, is so shy she can barely speak a single word to a stranger and can never coax her eyes above shoulder-level – until she and Will survey the entire apartment building to see who, if anyone, has actually seen the elusive roof-goat. I don't want to give too much away in this review, but the climactic goat-chase from the roof of the apartment building to a nearby park is quite heartwarming, with all of the characters coming together and overcoming their personal obstacles to finally catch the good luck goat.

      The Goat is a fun, quick read that will definitely appeal across the gender spectrum. Any child who struggles with shyness or anxiety, or who loves looking for bits of fantasy in everyday life, is sure to enjoy this title. While the book tackles very mature themes that will resonate with any adults who pick it up (and I do encourage adults to pick it up) the whimsy of the central conceit and the not-quite-realistic portrayals of the characters stop it from being too heavy for younger readers. It is also a great book for those children in this age bracket with a slightly lower reading level or speed.

Highly Recommended.

Susie Wilson is the Data Services Librarian at UNBC. When she isn't at work, you'll find her curled up with a cup of coffee and a good book.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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