________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 5 . . . . October 28, 2005


Lost Goat Lane.

Rosa Jordan.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005. 
197 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 1-55041-932-3.

Subject Headings:
Poor families - Juvenile fiction.
Race relations - Juvenile fiction.
Prejudices - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9 -12.

Review by Kristin Butcher.

*** ½ /4


Mom collapsed on the hay as if Kate had punched her in the stomach. “Katie, oh Katie,” she whispered. “There’s so much you don’t understand.”

Of course. That was what grown-ups always said when they couldn’t convince you of something, and you couldn’t argue because you didn’t know what they were talking about. Kate leaned against the wall of the shed with her arms folded, feeling weak and all yelled-out. Even though she had already fed Sugar at milking time, she put some more grain in her feed box, just to let the goat know that she hadn’t been yelling at her.


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.

Highly Recommended.

Kristin Butcher lives in Victoria, BC, and writes for children.


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

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