Give A Goat by Jan West Schrock with illustrations by Aileen Darragh - Book Review

Give a Goat by Jan West Schrock relates the tale of a class of real fifth grade students who, after hearing a book on how one goat can change the lives of children in Africa, decide to hold a fundraiser to buy a goat for the organization Heifer International. I was a bit reluctant to review Give a Goat as I tend to be leery of books that preach or sell to children. However, I was more than pleasantly drawn into the story and found no preachiness anywhere! I can guarantee you that if I were still in the classroom, we’d be collecting pennies to buy our own goat and I can easily see Give a Goat exploding to the same degree of popularity as the Flat Stanley phenomenon in schools.

As an added bonus, the book is a mathematical lesson in economics and business with lessons on buying, selling, profit margins, loans, budgeting, quality control, inventory, investment and record keeping ready to incorporate into your own project. The bright watercolor illustrations of Aileen Darragh add sensory delight as various animals, including the silly goat, insert humor into the scene.

Recommended for both elementary classroom and library purchase.

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Genre: Picture Book, Realistic Fiction. Age: 4-8. Pages: 32.

Themes: Earth Sharing, Cooperation, Humor.
Thanks to Tilbury House.
Publisher: Tilbury House. Date: May 2008.
ISBN-10: 0884483010 / ISBN-13: 978-0884483014

Buy Give a Goat Here

Themes To Explore: Community Empowerment, Business Planning, Hunger & Poverty, and Charity & Giving

Vocabulary To Investigate: Uganda, stern, genius, profit, quality control, inventory, investment, profit margin, ledger, broadened, flock

Comprehension Questions To Ponder:

1. What grade do the students in this story attend? (Fifth)

2. Why were they students in Mrs. Rowell’s class restless? (Because of the rain)

3. How did Beatrice’s goat change her life? (The goat gave milk – her family sold the extra for money- that money helped them get healthier so they could earn money to send Beatrice to school)

4. Why do you think the students in the class wanted to give a goat after Mrs. Rowell finished the story? (All answers accepted but try to get ‘they wanted to help other children’ type answers)

5. How does the librarian help the students? (She directs them to the Heifer International website)

6. Why does Ralph figure out how to find the site on his own? (He’s almost a genius at computers)

7. What is “passing on the gift?’ (When a family/person who got a goat –or other animal- gives one of the animals babies to another family)

8. Where did the students decide they all wanted to raise money to buy a goat? (At recess/on the playground)

9. Where do the students get the money to buy the products they sell? (Mrs. Rowell gives them a loan)

10. How do the students make a profit? (They have to charge more for the items than they paid)

11. Why do you think everyone wants to buy from the students and some even give them extra dollars? (All answers, but try for they felt like the idea was good one, they thought the students were doing a good thin type answers)

12. How did the students manage to buy not only a goat, but also a flock of chickens and some ducks? (They earned more than they needed to just buy the goat)

13. How did the animals get to their families? (They were shipped in crates from the same countries where the families need them)

14. How do you think the children felt once they gave a goat? (happy, excited, etc… all answers) Why? (Because giving feels good, it’s good to help other people, etc…

For activities on Give a Goat, visit the Tilbury House activities page: HERE.

It’s also interesting to note that author Jan West Schrock is a veteran educator and daughter of the founder of Heifer International. For more on what appears to be a fine organization, visit their site: HERE.

© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for

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Under the Night Sky by Amy Lundebrek with illustrations by Anna Rich - Book Review & Teaching Support

Under the Night Sky by Amy Lundebrek with illustrations by Anna Rich is a first person narrative of a young boy who is surprisingly awakened by his mother and scuttled off to watch a remarkable nighttime vision. The whole neighborhood is gathered to witness the spectacle of the Northern Lights. When the boy awakens the next morning, he wonders if his night of wonder was a dream.

First, I’d like to give you my opinion of Under the Night Sky and then I’ve got a few quick thoughts/activities for teachers/parents to enjoy while reading the story with their children:

I especially like that Under the Night Sky is contemporary in its setting of a single, working mother who must leave her child in the care of a neighbor. Children can easily identify with the young boy living in a multicultural neighborhood (and I especially like that we never know his name). There are several allusions to the neighborhood’s economic situation without ever making the reader consider them ‘poor.’ I love this. So many times, we’ve see the skeletal existence of poverty without understanding the joy of simple pleasures. Upon first glance, I was a little disappointed with the dark illustrations, but after reading the story found them to be a striking fit. The darkness of the night bedroom gives way to the green and purple swirls of the Aurora Borealis and lends a mystical quality to the tale.

Under the Night Sky is recommended for elementary libraries and as a great addition for classroom libraries as well.
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Genre: Picture Book. Age: 4-8. Pages: 32.
Themes: Love, Nature Appreciation, Non-Traditional Families
Thanks to Tilbury House Publishing.
Publisher: Tilbury House. Date: May 2008.
ISBN-10: 0884482979 / ISBN-13: 978-0884482970

Buy Under the Night Sky Here

Themes To Touch Upon: Community, Parent-Child Unconditional Love, Science = Aurora Borealis, Dreams vs. Reality, Single Parent Families and and the Simple Joys of Nature.

Vocabulary To Explore (in order of appearance as the pages are not numbered): snuggle, clink, gasping, bundled, landing, shrugs, hustle, straining, oozes, chatting, rare, solar, magnetosphere, spewing, horizon, tilting, jab, duel, burst

Comprehension Questioning (also in order of story progression):

1. Why does the boy’s Mama smell like grease from a factory? (she probably works in a factory where there are machines with grease)

2.Why do you think the boy is pretending to be asleep? (all answers acceptable, but strive for 'because he wants his Mama to think he’s being good' type responses)

3. Where does the boy live? (upstairs/apartment, neighborhood, in a city, where it is cold)

4. What does the mother do that calms the boy down and lets him know nothing is wrong? (she smiles)

5. How do you know it is winter? (boots, mittens, icy breath)

6. What is the boy talking about when he says, “We’ve reached our old Mercury, and Mama digs around in the back seat?” (a car) How did you know? (backseat, others in cars, she shuts the door, hood)

7. What did you think when the boy looked up and saw the green, red, white and purple night sky? (all answers acceptable)

8. Why do you think the people are silent? (all answers but try for 'it’s so beautiful, they are amazed' type answers)

9. Do you think the boy and his mother love each other very much? What in the story made you think this? (the whole unconditional love scene).

10. Has anyone seen these lights in the sky before? (Kevin and his family)

11. Are the neighborhood children friends? (Yes) How do you know? (they all join each other on the hood of the car and press close together)

12. Were the children really pulled up into the night sky? (No) What really happened? (the boy had a dream/imagined about the night before when his Mama took him out to see the Northern Lights)

13. Have you ever hard of the Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis?

A few things I found with minimal Goolge searching:

All sorts of math and science activities from South Dakota’s DOE

Copyright free photographs from Wikimeida Commons

27 lesson plans for various ages

Last, but not least, the publisher’s website with many activity ideas

Additional Reviews & Goodies:
Monday, Dec. 8: Shelf Elf
Tuesday December 9: Bri Meets Books
Wednesday, Dec. 10: Reading Rumpus (You Are Here)
Thursday, Dec. 11: In the Pages
Friday, Dec. 12: The Well-Read Child
Saturday, Dec. 13: Read These Books and Use Them
Sunday, Dec. 14: Ready, Set, Read
Monday, Dec. 15: Becky's Book Reviews
Tuesday, Dec. 16: NatureMoms
Thursday, Dec. 18: On My Bookshelf
Friday, Dec. 19: The Green Hour

Amy Lundebrk like outdoor sports as well as painting and sculpting. She has a degree in biology. This is her first children's book. You can read more about her on her website.
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for

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