18 March 2009


One Goat’s Story of Her Travels with Captain Cook
by Jackie French

Harper Collins Australia Pty Ltd. Australian, Juvenile Faction – Fiction based on Fact. Paperback rrp $14.99
Guest Reviewer Jo Burnell

History can be boring, but when a goat and a 12-year-old boy take turns giving their point of view, everything changes. Goat acts as if she owns the ship, knocking strangers flying and head-butting unwelcome advances. Isaac, the youngest hand on deck knows he’s on the lowest rung of the ship’s working ladder. Between these two characters, almost three years of ocean adventures come to life. Jackie French is a fine storyteller and she doesn’t let us down on this journey.

Goat often tries to kick over the milk bucket, but she never succeeds. Maggot-ridden biscuits wriggle on tin plates and I’ll never forget the unique way sailors wipe their bums.

Strange lands reveal even stranger people in various states of undress. White men are not perfect on this journey. All have their weaknesses. Even the great captain makes mistakes.

I don’t remember anything this real when I studied history at school many years ago. There is time for raucous laughter and heartfelt tears. The stomach clenches in anticipation along the east coast of New Holland. I hold my breath with the crew as they work desperately to avoid running aground. I’m confused when a fist-sized hole is enough to end a mighty ship and all its crew. The solution that saves them is beyond weird.

Jackie’s ‘Faction’ (fiction based on fact) creates a delectable stew of information. The quirky viewpoint makes many details memorable. I might never have thought twice about officers at sea enjoying roast kid, but when Goat fights to protect her young and smells their blood not long after, the situation is unforgettable. In the same way, a sailor’s diet of hard sea biscuit and mouldy cheese was nothing unusual, but it seems striking in comparison with Officers’ plum pudding. Knowledge that officers continue to dine well even when their crew starve remains with me long after the book is finished.

If you want to bring a past world to life for young readers, there can be no better place to start than Jackie French’s Goat Who Sailed the World.


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