Ava Keyes (text) and Aleksandra Szmidt (illustrator), Scapegoat, Little Steps, September 2018, 32 pp., RRP $14.95 (pbk), ISBN  9780648267461

Scapegoat is a rhyming story about a goat, who, as his name suggests, is blamed for everything that goes wrong at home. From broken dishes and sibling scuffles to burnt dinners, this kid cops it for everything. Unsurprisingly, all of this has a damaging effect on Scapegoat’s self-esteem.

Luckily Scapegoat finds support at school in the form of a hairy nosed wombat friend and a cloven hooved teacher who reassures him that he is a great kid and that parents don’t always get it right. The teacher also reminds Scapegoat’s parents of how wonderful their son really is. Scapegoat learns that he is worthy of better treatment, and that bullying is never okay- particularly when it comes from one’s own family.

Ava Keyes – a psychology graduate- has created a useful resource to provide support, hope and guidance to 6-8 year old children experiencing family bullying, or scapegoating. For the very specific audience for which it is intended, this book has plenty of merit. But for a wider audience of young children who may have no experience of family bullying, it has the potential to be confusing and they may find it difficult to identify with Scapegoat and his situation.

Szmidt’s bright, colourful and textured illustrations are very appealing to young children and offset the seriousness of the storyline nicely.

Reviewed by Deb Kelly

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