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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?