A Goat Called Willow by Helen Peters, illustrated by Ellie Snowdon. Walker Books, 2021. 9781536210293
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Realistic animal fiction
What did you like about the book? Jasmine Green and her best friend Tom plan to open an animal rescue center when they grow up, and will take any opportunity to help an animal in trouble, even if it means lying to their parents and sneaking around to care for the animal. In this 6th book in the bucolic English Jasmine Green Rescues series, the pair meets a motherless baby goat while visiting a local fair, and learn that if the kid’s owner can’t sell it at the fair he will shoot it that evening. So Jasmine and Tom pool all of their spending money (and Jasmine contributes all of her savings as well) to rescue the goat, which they name Willow. They convince the owner to deliver her to Jasmine’s family farm, where they have set up a pen and a shed out of sight of Jasmine’s father. They manage to keep Willow hidden from the adults, but are soon discovered by Jasmine’s 6-year-old brother Manu and his friend Ben, who agree to keep Willow a secret if Jasmine lets them set up an obstacle course for the adventurous kid. The secret is not safe for long, as goats are well-known escape artists! Willow arrives at the playground at school, much to Jasmine’s dismay, and Manu identifies the goat as belonging to his sister. Her parents are very angry that Jasmine has once again defied their rule, and make arrangements to return Willow to her original owner once the goat is old enough. Desperate to keep Willow for her own, Jasmine begins training the goat for an agility competition at an upcoming fair, in hopes that her parents will be so impressed they will let her keep her. Willow gets into a fair amount of trouble in the produce tent at the fair, but wows the crowd in the agility trials. And in the end, Jasmine and her mother come up with the perfect solution for the little kid’s future.
This charming series gets better with each new installment; it is delightful to get to know Jasmine as she learns the ins and outs of the real work of rescuing animals. Her bond with Tom is becoming a true partnership as they share responsibility for their charges. Readers will learn a lot about the difficult realities of farm life and animal husbandry as they laugh aloud at the antics of the mischievous Willow. Adorable pencil sketches add charm and bring the characters to life. As always, a Q & A with Jasmine concludes the story.
Anything you did not like about the book? Readers of previous books might be disappointed to see Jasmine break her parents’ rule about ‘no new animals’ yet again (and try to deceive them again as well), especially as the parents always seem to relent in the end.
To whom would you recommend this book? Young readers who have read any of the previous Jasmine Green books will love this one; a good fit for fans of authors like Dick King-Smith and a step up from more formulaic series like Animal Ark or Puppy Place.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: August 22, 2021