Written by Mitchell Sharmat, Illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey
Scholastic Inc, 1980
Once there was a goat named Gregory. Gregory liked to jump from rock to rock, kick his legs into the air, and butt his head against walls.
The plot in a nutshell: A goat learns to enjoy a balanced diet.
While Gregory’s parents enjoy eating their dinner of tins cans, old shoes and bottle caps, fussy eater Gregory craves fruits and vegetables. His parents are very concerned that he has such odd taste in food. The next morning, they offer him some of their breakfast of a coat and pair of pants, but he asks for cereal, a banana and some orange juice. Gregory’s parents take him to the doctor, who tells them he needs to develop a taste for proper goat food slowly. So that night, his mother offers him spaghetti and a shoelace. He enjoys it and each night, his parents expand his palate, including offering him vegetable soup as long as he agrees to eat the can as well. But then things start disappearing from their home and his parents realize he’s eating too much. So they bring home a huge pile of junk from the town dump and tell him to help himself. Gregory eats until he has a stomachache and the next day, he wakes up to a breakfast of scrambled eggs and wax paper, which is the right food and the right portion size.
This book was a book club selection from the days when my kids were little and it was an instant favorite. Author Mitchell Sharmat was perhaps better known for his collaboration (with his wife, Marjorie Sharmat) on the Nate the Great series of books, but this book became his most successful after it was featured on an episode of Reading Rainbow. I really loved the twist on what was considered junk food and the final resolution that finding a balance in your diet is a good idea for everyone.
The illustrations are very basic, with large shapes, thin outlines and minimal detail. But they work very well for the story, especially in the facial expression of the characters. You can tell that Gregory’s parents are concerned for his health and not just giving him a hard time about what he’s choosing. And I love that his parents are also having scrambled eggs in the final picture, showing that they are meeting him halfway, too. All in all, I think it conveys a positive message about taking care of yourself and those you love.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that some foods take a while to get used to, but eating right is worth the effort.