________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 17 . . . . April 18, 2008


The Goatnappers.

Rosa Jordan.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2007.
209 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-55041-575-9.

Subject Heading:
Goats-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Kristin Butcher.

*** /4


Later, when Justin was trying to do his math homework, his mind kept drifting to his problems. There must be such a thing as a Spread Factor, he thought with a grim smile. It would explain how something, say, a glass of milk, could be an exact measurable amount, but if you spilled it, it spread out in a way that made it seem a lot bigger.

The Spread Factor would also explain why Mom always started off working a certain number of hours at her jobs, then gradually added more and more hours until neither she nor they knew exactly when she would get home. And it could also explain why the more Justin tried to catch up in math, the more he kept running into things that he didn't understand.

Most of all, the Spread Factor would explain how his problems, which could be listed on half a single page of lined notepaper, once they got out, kept spreading like spilled milk, all over the neighborhood.

In the sequel to her well-received novel, Lost Goat Lane, Rosa Jordan continues the story of the Martin family, shifting emphasis from 13-year-old Kate to 15-year-old Justin. Only a couple of months have elapsed since the close of the first novel, and, except for the addition of Lily, a female foil for seven-year-old friends, Chip and Luther, Charlie, the Martin children's absentee father, and Mr. Grimstead, the novel's designated villain, the cast of characters remains unchanged.

     As the novel opens, Justin has made the varsity baseball team at his school, quite a feat considering he is only a freshman. The only other freshman to ever crack the team was the major league player, Booker Wilson, and that was over twenty years ago. The fact that Justin is a less than stellar student and has managed to attain grades high enough to meet the team academic standard is further evidence of his commitment to baseball. But with farm chores, baby-sitting, schoolwork, and baseball practice, Justin's time is stretched to the limit. In order to keep up with all his responsibilities, Justin decides he needs a bike. His friend, Brad, has one for sale, but Justin doesn't have the money. Because family finances are beyond tight, his Mom can't help. To solve the problem, he ends up selling the baby billy goat Kate had given him for Christmas.

     Though it seemed like a good idea at the time, Justin and the other children soon learn that the man who bought the goat is an animal abuser, and so the group sets out to steal Billy back and hide him at an old, abandoned farm. This works as a short-term solution, but the young people have to come up with a more permanent arrangement — and soon, because Mr. Grimstead — the man from whom they stole Billy — knows what the children have done and has the police on their trail.

     To further complicate matters, Charlie Martin reappears after a four-year absence, and, after getting reacquainted with his children, he presses Justin to come and live with him. In the face of all these problems, it is not surprising that Justin's marks slip and he is in danger of being kicked off the baseball team even before the season has started.

     To round out the novel, Jordan has thrown in some teen angst about girls, peers, and family relationships. The storyline surrounding Brad and his family is less than convincing, and there is a bit too much moralizing for this reader, but the interaction of the characters is great. Though not as poignant as Lost Goat Lane, The Goatnappers is a very satisfactory read.


Kristin Butcher lives in Campbell River, BC, and writes for young people.

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

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