The Goats



Camp tale gives readers a lot to think about.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The boy and girl run away, lie, steal. The girl is concerned about touching a black person's skin.


A boy has scars from cigarette burns.


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.


One mild word for breasts.


A few products mentioned: Cokes, a Cabbage Patch doll, etc.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teen girls smoke, reference to a father who took drugs.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Brock Cole
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:March 13, 2005
Number of pages:192

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bybrainmentalblock April 9, 2008

brutal, tender, beautiful

I thought that this book was beautiful. The kids are young enough and innocent enough that sex is not an issue, there are a couple of d-words, but there is a lot of love. (I only mention the sex and language because this site seems concerned about these issues.) Two sensitive kids react to the brutality of hazing, by running, and end up clinging to each other in the most heartwarming way. I loved it. Exciting, deep, and powerful.
Adult Written bythinkofthechildren April 9, 2008

Not appropriate.

My 10 year-old granddaughter read this! She loved it and recommended I read it. I was appalled at the language I found in this book. God did not put me on this Earth to stand by when my granddaughter reads dirty novels! It makes me sick to think that some parents nowadays actually value their child's happiness in place of keeping them away from fowl language! Children should not be allowed to read this book! Not only does this book make multiple crude references to that which God does not want me to speak of, but it portrays running away from summer camp as a good thing!
Teen, 15 years old Written byNefiiria April 9, 2008

My Thoughts on The Goats.

I thought this book was very intriguing. A story about a boy and a girl, marooned on an island in the middle of a lake. That just captures the imagination right there. The nudity in the beginning will capture any perverse teenagers mind, and may even have them hooked on the book for a while. Now, the nudity for me, I didn't even get phased by it. I've been around way too many things for this to bother me, so I was alright with it. I'm sure parents would think that this is soemthing wrong or unright, but if a child is to learn about the ways that most people act, tehn they must either read about it, or figure it out the hard way, by observation. A parent can teach a child, or he can figure it out by himself, and possibly go into the wrong direction with it. The alcohol is not a prblem. I myself have never drunk alcohol, nor will I until it is legal for me to. Any sexual content was a little distracting to me, but if I were basically stripped naked and the only thing I could grab to cover me was a shirt that has some pretty graphic content, I think we all know which I'd choose. Of course, I would try to get rid of it as soon as possible, but there's nothing I'd be able to do at that point. ...That's about it. This is my first review on any book online. I thought the book had a beautiful storyline, showing the affection of a boy to a girl, without the whole use of sexual fission to completely destroy the beauty of it.


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