Review posted November 11, 2013.
Tilbury House, Gardiner, Maine, 2004. 32 pages.
I’m reviewing this book in honor of my friend Kathe Barsotti. Kathe is working for zoning changes to let pygmy goats be allowed in the Town of Herndon, because their milk eases her arthritis. I mentioned that to my coworker Mary, after Kathe’s picture was in the local paper. Mary immediately said that I had to read The Goat Lady. In the past, Mary has booktalked this book in the schools.
Sure enough, the Goat Lady had started raising goats because their milk cured her arthritis. Though the Goat Lady of the book ended up with far more goats than my friend Kathe tends.
The story of the Goat Lady, Noelie Houle, is told from the perspective of neighbor children. When they moved to the neighborhood they were fascinated by a nearby rundown farmhouse with a yard full of white goats. They got to know the neighbor and her friendly goats, and learned to help care for them.
The children’s mother, who turns out to be the author of this book, was an artist. She painted many portraits of Noelie and her goats, which are used throughout the book.
Mom finished enough paintings of Noelie and her goats to fill the walls of the town hall for an art show. On opening night of the show, lots of people came: the “Meals on Wheels” drivers who brought Noelie’s lunch on weekdays; the young man who helped her feed the goats between his school bus runs; the church lady who helped her with grocery shopping; the men who delivered hay and dried corn; the nurse who changed the bandage on her sore leg; the nurse’s husband, who liked to talk in French with Noelie; and a young woman who had been able to drink only goat’s milk when she was a child.
My only complaint? There are many lovely pictures of Noelie in the book, but they chose one for the cover in which she looks rather dumpy.
A sad thing about this book is that it’s buried in the biography section. It is indeed a picture book biography about a remarkable person. She lived a quiet life, and children won’t think to look for her by name. But those who discover her story will be delighted.