Grumpy Goat

cover

Written and Illustrated by Brett Helquist

HarperCollins, 2013

Goat had never had a single friend in his life.

The plot in a nutshell:  An unhappy goat finds his happy place.

When the goat arrives at Sunny Acres, he finds a very happy farm, but he is in no mood to make friends. He chases away the pigs and the cow and the sheep stay away on their own. Instead of looking at anything around him, he keeps his head down and eats. But then he stumbles on a dandelion flower and it reminds him of something. He sits and watches it, then he starts taking care of it. Gradually, the other animals come to visit him and he gets to know them and they become friends. One day, a breeze blows through and the dandelion scatters in the wind. Goat mourns the loss of his flower and doesn’t even respond to his friends’ attempts to cheer him up. Even so, they stay close by him. And when a new dandelion grows, Goat sees that the whole hill is covered with them now. From that point on, Sunny Acres is a friendly farm again.

On his website, author/illustrator Brett Helquist says that the inspiration came from an illustration of a goat with a dandelion that he had done for one of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books. He felt there was more story in that goat, so he wrote it out here. I liked the story overall, but felt that I would have liked it better if I knew more about Goat. Was he grumpy because he didn’t have friends? And it’s nice to see him happy at the end, but there’s a sense that all that happiness will fade away again when the weather changes again, so the happiness feels less satisfying.

flower

That’s a delighted goat.

The illustrations, done in acrylic and oil, are beautiful and emotive, showing us so much about these characters and how they feel. Just from their facial expressions, we can tell when they are worried or annoyed or concerned and it gives the story more meaning. With the exception of a few sunny pages, most of the pictures use a darker palette, reflecting Goat’s mood. I liked the ending and the notion that a little kindness can effect big changes just like one dandelion can spread into a whole field of dandelions. The message to stop and smell the flowers is always nice, but you get the idea that Goat is maybe a little too dependent on those flowers.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that a little sunny attitude planted in the right place can blossom into a wide field of joy.

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