The Big Snuggle-Up: Brian Patten and Nicola Bayley
The Boy at the End of the World: Greg van Eekhout

Scapegoat: Dean Hale and Michael Slack

Book: Scapegoat: The Story of a Goat Named Oat and A Chewed-Up Coat
Author: Dean Hale
Illustrator: Michael Slack
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 to 8

61cFXlUogdL._SL500_AA300_ Scapegoat is pure fun. It's the story of a family with a mischievous young son and a poor maligned goat. Every time something bad happens in the Choat household (nose blown in Mom's tote bag, baby brother's boat broken, etc.), young Jimmy blames the family goat. Although the goat, Patsy Petunia Oat, tries to defend herself, Mr. and Mrs. Choat do not speak goat, and thus take Jimmy's words at face value. But when a goat-speaker happens by, Jimmy's scapegoating gig might just be up.

Dean Hale's text is chock full of rhyme, but has plenty of variation in line length, words on the page, etc, to keep the text from becoming sing-songy. It's perfect for read-aloud. Like this:

"On Tuesday, Pa Choat wanted to watch The Love Boat and asked Jimmy Choat, "Where is the TV remote?"

The pet goat, Patsy P. Oat, raised her head and said, "Jimmy threw it away."

But Papa Choat, like Mama Choat, could not speak Goat, and listened to his son Jimmy instead, who said, "The remote? It was eaten by Patsy the goat."

The mischief that occurs is sure to be entertaining to kids, while the reactions of the weary Mr. and Mrs. Choat will feel familiar to parents. A twist at the end will have everyone turning back to read the story again.

Michael Slack, author/illustrator of Monkey Truck, is well-matched to this story. His photoshop/digital collage illustrations have an over-the-top, stylized feel, softened by the digitally painted, textured backgrounds. Jimmy has enormous eyes and a pig-like nose, while his baby brother sports a single tooth and a single curl of hair. Mrs. Choat's expression, on finding "her keys in a much moat" is like something out of a horror film. And Patsy is quite stylish for a goat.

My favorite illustration is on a page mid-story in which "The goat was outside, chewing the grass with some sass", and see, out the window, an unflattering sketch of Jimmy chewed into the grass. This is excellent sass. I also especially like how Mrs. Choat is initially pictured, at a computer with a cup of tea, but holding a baby in one arm.

All in all, Scapegoat is fun, fun, fun. The incidents are boy- and girl-friendly, the text is well-suited for read-aloud, and the lively illustrations will make parents and kids laugh out loud. Recommended for readers in any household in which parents ask "Okay, who threw this away?", "Who broke this?", etc.

Publisher: Bloomsbury (@BWKids)
Publication Date: June 21, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.