CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 5 . . . . October 28, 2005
Sometimes, circumstances force kids to grow up too fast. So it is with 13-year-old Kate Martin. Ever since her dad walked out on the family, her life has changed so much she hardly recognizes it. The bank is threatening to repossess the family’s small farm, and as a result, Kate’s mother works seven days a week at the local dairy to catch up back payments. But there is no money for anything else, not even back-to-school clothes, and having grown out of all last year’s jeans and shirts, Kate becomes the brunt of cruel teasing at school. At home, she and her two brothers do their best to keep the farm and family running smoothly, despite the hardships. Certain that the family is going to lose the farm and have to move away, Kate’s older brother, Justin, sees his dreams of making the school baseball team slipping through his fingers and makes noises about running away. Kate’s younger brother, Chip, expresses his unhappiness by getting into trouble, which Kate gets chastised for because she is the one who is supposed to be looking after him.
And then Kate’s goat, Sugar, gets out of her pen and goes to visit the neighbors’ billy goat down the road. As a result, Kate and her brothers start regularly visiting Billy’s African American owners, the Wilsons. But it is a testy friendship. Though Kate is in awe of Ruby, the beautiful grown daughter who has returned from New York with her son, Luther, Ruby sees the Martin children as ‘white trash’ and is cool to the idea of Luther chumming with Chip. Kate’s mother is equally unhappy about her children hanging out at the Wilsons. But it’s the only outlet the children have, so they persist. But when Ruby and Kate start up a candy business without Kate’s mother’s permission, things get ugly. It isn’t until Kate finally takes a stand for what she believes, that the situation improves.Lost Goat Lane is a refreshing reminder that the human spirit has the power to rise above adversity. The novel explores a number of issues, including prejudice, hardship, choices, family, independence, and determination. It is simultaneously funny and touching, a novel to be read and shared by children and adults alike.
It’s only drawbacks are its title and cover art. More suited to a five year-old than the 9-12 set, the cover is bland and unappealing. Unless readers were on a mission to buy this book, it is unlikely they would give it a second glance. Equally uninteresting is the title. Given the cover art, the title merely adds to the book’s invisibility factor. And that’s a pity. A book as good as this one deserves to be read.
Kristin Butcher lives in Victoria, BC, and writes for children.
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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.