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Review: Billy and Goat at the State Fair by Dan Yaccarino

Billy and Goat

Billy and Goat at the State Fair
By Dan Yaccarino

Knopf (Random House)

ISBN: 9780385753258
Grades K-2
Out June 30, 2015

Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your Library

Since it seems appropriate, I’d like to start with a very perceptive quote by author-illustrator Peter Brown, from his Boston Globe-Horn Book acceptance speech for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild:

We are all animals, even though we don’t feel like it. Human beings are animals; we know this, and yet most of us feel totally separate from the animal world. I don’t think children feel totally separate from the animal world. The younger they are, the less kids look at animals as being some other thing. Little kids crawling around on the floor with their dogs and their cats are just hanging out with their friends. I think kids have an interesting appreciation for animals that, unfortunately, the rest of us lose over the years. If a kid grows up in the countryside, as I did, I think they have an even greater appreciation and connection with animals, with wildness, with wildlife.

In Dan Yaccarino’s latest, Billy and Goat at the State Fair, the bond between child and beast is strong. And since they’re friends, it seems completely reasonable to the human (Billy) that he could learn something from the animal (Goat), like how to be brave or enjoy new things.

Billy and Goat were the best of friends.

A classic odd couple: Billy smells the flowers, Goat eats them. Billy reads adventure stories, Goat wants real-life adventure. The state fair provides the perfect opportunity. They both dream of Goat winning the blue ribbon at the best-goat competition. But the fair is big and loud and crowded. Goat loves it. Billy fears it. When goat takes off to explore, Billy comes to find out that the fair can be fun with a pal. Goat doesn’t win the blue ribbon, but the adventure is the real prize anyway.

The pacing here is rock solid – all the plot pieces fit nicely, making a satisfying whole. Interest never wanes thanks to an excellent use of page turns. An example from late in the book when Billy finally catches up to the adventure-seeking Goat:

“I was afraid you’d get lost!” he panted.

“I was afraid I’d get lost!” Then Billy looked

around and realized where they were sitting.

You want to know where, right? For the record, it’s a parade float. It seems every spread in Billy and Goat leads into the next, with subtle drama or excitement to make the reader eager to turn the page.

Yaccarino uses brush and ink on vellum and Photoshop to achieve his signature style – smooth, streamlined, and bright. There’s good variety in the illustrations as well – closing in on specific events, but occasionally pulling out to give a birds-eye view of the lively surroundings.

A boy and a goat – just a couple of pals. Billy and Goat reminds us that maybe humans and animals aren’t as separate as us adults think. Add this to your summer read aloud repertoire.

Review copy from the publisher.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.