________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 14 . . . . March 16, 2001

cover Anna's Goat.

Janice Kulyk Keefer. Illustrated by Janet Wilson.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2000.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55143-153-X.

Subject Heading:
World War, 1939-1945-Refugees-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1 - 4 / Ages 6 - 9.

Review by Alison Mews.

**** /4


That night there was a knock at the door. When Anna's mother opened it, what should walk inside but a strange creature with four skinny legs, a fat, fleecy coat and a beard like a curl of cloud! Wanda stared and stared, and then looked up at her mother, asking the question just with her eyes.

"This is a nanny goat," Mother answered. "She will stay with you and Anna when I go to work. All day you can cuddle up beside her, and when I come home each night, I will milk the goat for your supper."

And indeed, all through that dark, cold time, the goat kept the children safe and warm and full as summer. Wanda grew taller, and Anna changed from a baby who was always sucking her thumb...to a little girl who laughed when the nanny goat tried to eat, not just hay, but spoons and candles and even towels dancing on the washing line!

image Anna's Goat details the plight of a refugee family forced into the European countryside during World War II and the unique way their adoptive village helps them cope with their desperate circumstances. The story opens with the birth of baby Anna, whose arrival casts a bright glow over the family's dark and unhappy exile. After the father leaves to work in another village and the mother finds she can no longer feed her baby, the village women present them with a goat to provide milk and comfort to the children. When the war ends and they are able to return to their home in the city, Anna's goat must remain behind in the village to help feed other children. As they begin the difficult process of rebuilding the ravished city, the children make a game of finding treasures in the rubble. When Anna complains to her mother that she is unable to find a treasure, she is given a half-chewed towel - a reminder of the nanny goat who kept her safe and warm in the cold countryside. This object becomes Anna's treasure, and she sleeps each night with the scrap of cloth and with the memory of the warm goat enveloping her dreams. The story ends with a grown-up Anna, now living in Canada, creating clay sculptures of animals, and especially of nanny goats.

      Janet Wilson, an award-winning illustrator, again displays her amazing talent to portray faces realistically. However, she departs from her usual bright colours and finely detailed portraiture. Using Conte crayon on coloured paper, her soft sketches in muted colours, with their preponderance of browns and sepia tones, are reminiscent of old photos. These are perfectly suited to this subdued memoir of a dismal period.

      Janice Kulyk Keefer's reflective story reveals the adversity of the time, but the harsher realities of war are not introduced. Instead, Keefer lyrically presents one family's experience in which they are reunited with each other and their home at the end. Together, Keefer and Wilson have created a gentle and memorable portrait of refugee life. Anna's Goat is recommended for home use or classroom units on war or multiculturalism.

Highly Recommended.

Alison Mews is Head of the Curriculum Materials Centre at the Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, NF.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364