Sergeant Billy: The True Story of a Goat Who Went to War by Mireille Messier, Illus. by Kass Reitch

Review by Verena Rodriguez

Tundra, Penguin Random House, 17 September 2019

40 pages, hardcover, $21.99 CAD, 978-0-73526-442-7

Ages 4-8, Grades Pre K-3

Picture Book, Non-Fiction

From prairie goat to decorated war hero, Sergeant Billy is based on the true story of a goat who went to World War I and fought—yes, we are talking about a real goat—with the Canadian Fifth Battalion. The story begins as Billy is adopted by a platoon of soldiers and smuggled from a small prairie town across the sea to France. The story, as well as the gouache illustrations, are full of humour. Billy is portrayed in different vignettes doing a series of goat-like activities that cheer up the battalion. The soldiers of Fighting Fifth go through a lot of trouble for taking Billy, but he proves to be a useful and loyal member of the battalion. Sergeant Billy would be suitable as a bedtime story because, while Reich’s interpretation of Billy makes the reader connect with the goat and want to hug him, this endearing story also gives a glimpse into World War I without depicting all the war horrors.

Verena recently graduated from the MA in Children’s Literature at UBC. Before that she did a BA in Visual Communication at the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico). She specialized in illustration and has been working as a graphic designer since 2014. She also works as a freelance illustrator for children’s books and textbooks and occasionally does animation projects.

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