Sisters Aspen and Sycamore Sap enjoy making blackberry jam with their parents, and they especially love listening to Mama’s stories of the daring animal rescues she has made during her shifts as a firefighter. A frightening dream leads Aspen to investigate ways to keep their backyard blackberry bushes from becoming overgrown, which in turn leads her to consider the possibility of adopting a goat. When her moms unexpectedly agree to Aspen’s suggestion, the Sap family ultimately grows even more in an attempt to make Gary the Grumpy Goat feel more at home.
This delightful story is filled with whimsy and charm in both the narrative and the complementary illustrations. Summery hues adorn the images, giving readers an immediate sense of comfort and familiarity with the Sap family. The text is best suited to elementary school-aged readers due to its length and complexity, but readers of all ages will appreciate the overall design of the book. Like the other books in the Once Upon a Dance canon, this one is subdivided into three pieces: narrative, illustrations, and movement suggestions. Whether readers experience the book in whole or in parts and pieces, there is more for them to discover with each reading.
The movement segment of this book is particularly multifaceted. First, while there are suggestions for movement in general, there is likewise ample opportunity to explore imaginative play. From pretending to be a firefighter to embodying the personalities of the animals in the story, readers will be able to extend their learning far beyond the book itself. Additionally, the movement section includes questions directed at readers to encourage them to dive deeper into the narrative. Whether reading with a grownup or on their own, children will appreciate these invitations for dialogic reading and richer interaction with the story. This is an entertaining and inclusive tale that is sure to get readers moving; it is a positive addition to movement collections for elementary school aged readers.
—Mary Lanni, Independent/Librarian Reviewer
*Note Aspen is non-pronouned character
A pig, a llama, and a very grumpy goat, this is a fun picture book for young children - particularly if they like to stretch and dance!
I'm often amazed by how many books Once Upon a Dance has produced. It's very impressive! I've enjoyed a number of them over the years, and I've always loved the way the author offers the reader not only a fun and often exciting story, but also interesting and innovative ways to stretch and dance. In the latest offering, a family must find a way of helping a grumpy goat not to be so grumpy. And it seems the only way to do that is to get him a few pals - a pig and a llama! Yes, it's all rather surreal. But that's okay; it's not predictable anyway! What follows it's a sweet story written in an easy to follow way and helped along by astounding artwork. If I was to criticise anything, it would be the author´s tendency to tell and not show. This is particularly a problem at the beginning of the book as, for example, the author tells the reader how Mama, who's a firefighter, pulled tiny ducks out of a sewer. The problem in writing this way is that there's no suspense; it's all over in a sentence. But, other than that, and the odd small, grammatical error, this is a well-written picture book with a caring feel to the story. In terms of who it's for, I´d suggest most 5 to 8 year olds would enjoy the story whilst, at the same time, finding the stretching not too taxing to do. I suspect it would go down particularly well in a primary school or, of course, a dance school. It would also be the perfect birthday or Christmas present for a young girl or boy who's interested in dance - and how to cheer up grumpy goats!
—The Wishing Shelf REVIEW