Goat on a boat by Nick Dent

cover image

Illus. by Suzanne Houghton. Scholastic, 2019. ISBN: 9781760669164.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Goats, Migrants, Asylum seekers, Refugees. When a goat turns up at the island on a boat, the response from the sheep who live there is varied. The older gruffer sheep, Bighorn Bill, tells everyone that if you let one land then many more will follow. He warns that their island cannot sustain more inhabitants and that the goat came uninvited.
The island does not have a lot of food, the sheep having to nibble at anything that they spy on the ground, so uncertainly agree with Bill.
One of the sheep, Fleecy Jean argues with the ram, that the goat has as much right to be there as they, and what the ram is doing is mean. Bill talks about detaining the goat, but the goat lands and takes to the hills beyond the shore, a place where the sheep do not go. The goat finds pasture at the top of the mountain and shows the sheep how to access the slopes and so the new grass.
In a heart felt tribute to the skills migrants bring to a country, Dent parodies the oft heard phrase from the rams of this world, 'stop the goats', while giving the ram the voice of detention centres and fear of the unknown to bully people into seeing it his way.
In gentle rhyming stanzas, the island of Joxx (rhymes with rocks!) becomes a place where 'a warm welcome goes a long way' in this lovely picture book. Readers will love the illustrations, looking closely at the faces of each of the animals, reflecting arguments each offer in their search for a solution. I love the image of Bill, a large confronting face staring out on the page then reduced to a much skinnier version at the end of the book, and the readers will be intrigued with the variety of boats and animals coming ashore.
A gently amusing look at refugees will engender discussion amongst the readers. Teacher notes are available.
Fran Knight