By Matt Berman,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Camp tale gives readers a lot to think about.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The boy and girl run away, lie, steal. The girl is concerned about touching a black person's skin.
Violence & Scariness
A boy has scars from cigarette burns.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A boy and girl are stripped and left together. The boy notices the girl's pubic hair and nipples. They see a centerfold. The girl has her period. A teen boy puts his hand on a girl's backside. A girl wears a "Milk Bar" T-shirt. Some innuendo.
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One mild word for breasts.
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Products & Purchases
A few products mentioned: Cokes, a Cabbage Patch doll, etc.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teen girls smoke, reference to a father who took drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, as part of a cruel joke, two young teens are stranded on an island together without any way to get back to camp -- and without any clothes. But even though they're naked, there's no hanky-panky; instead, the mortified outcasts work together to survive the experience and get revenge on the bullies who tried to humiliate them.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
Two social outcasts at summer camp, Howie and Laura, are stripped and marooned by their campmates on an island in the lake. Possessed of intelligence and determination the other kids knew nothing about, they decide to get even by simply disappearing.
Through the difficult process of getting off the island, getting clothes, and surviving while avoiding the widespread search that is made for them by a camp more afraid of lawsuits than concerned about the cruelty practiced by its residents, they gradually and tentatively form an emotional bond that becomes the one thing they can rely on as the whole world seems to conspire against them.
Is It Any Good?
Some young readers may be frustrated by the ambiguous ending, even as they revel in the children's ongoing defiance of a hostile world. Unlike many survival stories, the main characters are not lost in a wilderness but are eking out their hunted existence at the edges of civilization, though Howie is mightily tempted to try to disappear into the woods and never be found. With glancing commentaries on the many and varied relationships between and among children and adults, the author gives readers much to ponder and discuss.
THE GOATS made quite an impression when it first came out in 1987. It takes place in the children's fiction favorite locale to examine the cruelty of mankind: summer camp. (In fact, it has the kind of grit shown in another well-known cruelty-in-camp novel, "Bless the Beasts and Children.") But what sets it apart from others in its genre is the careful tenderness of the relationship between Howie and Laura, a deeply emotional relationship that never becomes sexual. It's finally that bond, portrayed with great delicacy and beauty by the author, that becomes the most meaningful part of their harrowing experience.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the emotional and physical effects of bullying and the human tendency to single out those who are "different." Why have Howie and Laura been labeled social outcasts? Do they accept these labels or reject them? By the end of the story, have Howie and Laura become different people? How are they different?
- Author: Brock Cole
- Genre: Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publication date: March 13, 2005
- Number of pages: 192
- Last updated: June 18, 2015
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