Teaching a child to have compassion is important. Jane Bregoli's The Goat Lady is a true story that shows how love can bring an elderly outcast back into the folds of society. When Jessica and David move to Dartmouth, Mass., they bring with them acceptance and understanding. They do not ridicule Noelie, who dresses funny and lets goats inside her house. Instead, they get to know her for who she truly is. By looking past her exterior appearance, they get to experience her generous, caring heart.
Jessica and David also share Noelie's true personality with others. Their mother (Bregoli) begins to capture Noelie's essence with her paintbrush - the impetus behind the book's creation. The Goat Lady's endearing portraits are intensely moving. They depict Noelie's quirkiness - one sock on, one sock off, her frugality - twine as a belt, and her gentleness - with a baby goat on her lap. For the town, the paintings provide a window into her life. With a new insight into their most-talked-about resident, the community embraces Noelie. She is asked to lead the Fourth of July parade and receives an award for providing the town with fresh goat's milk. Thanks to the interest of two children, she no longer lives in isolation.
What makes this story special is that it actually happened. It is not a packaged narrative with a simplistic moral tone. Instead, legitimate concerns, regarding hygiene and mental competency, are subjects that are mentioned, if only in passing. People may shy away from those who are eccentric, but usually not without reason. Noelie lives in a ramshackle, old farmhouse in desperate need of repair. Her poverty as well as her age are additional factors working against her in the realm of public opinion. The story does not gloss over the root causes behind these embedded perceptions.
Today, many forms of children's entertainment feature the antics of wise-cracking, know-it-all characters. It is refreshing to encounter a story that is so grounded in reality. It shows how a child has the power to make a difference in the life of an adult. Children are not powerless beings adrift in a world beyond their control. They have a voice, and when they use it, can effect change where it is most needed. Their influence is not to be underestimated.
Overall, this lady will get your goat, but in a good way.
The Goat Lady by Jane Bregoli is available for $16.95 at Amazon.com and at TilburyHouse.com.
A complimentary review copy was provided by Got Books?.
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