The Martin kids are bored in the hot summer sun, so they play with fire, er alligators. Kate and her brothers have promised their mom that they’d stay away from the dangerous creatures, but boredom does something to child minds. It isn’t until Chip (the youngest) loses his beloved dog, Go Boy, to the alligators, that the older kids wise up and steer clear.
The Martin family is struggling to make ends meet a few years after their dad left for the race car mechanic circuit and never came back. One day a bank man comes to look at the house and ask a few questions, so Kate and her brothers become afraid that they are going to lose the farm, and all their beloved animals with it. The family can’t afford new school clothes, so they start school with their old clothes. I particularly felt bad for Kate because she is at the stage of rapid female changes, and her clothes don’t fit at all. How do you get by unnoticed when everything about you is noticeable?
One day Kate can’t find her goat, Sugar, and when Justin and Chip help her look, they all find something amazing in the Wilson family who lives at the end of Lost Goat Lane.
I enjoyed reading about the interactions of the Wilson and Martin families, as they work through the issues of race and prejudice in a small town. The Wilson family is black and the Martin family is considered ‘white trash’ by the Wilson’s daughter, Ruby, who has moved back home with her son. As Chip and Luther become friends Ruby must question her assumptions about this wonderful family that is just down on their luck. Ruby also questions her presumption that blacks interact with blacks and whites with whites and it becomes clear that you don’t have to judge someone by their color. I like that Ruby helps out Kate when Kate’s only pair of jeans rip clean through. Their relationship proves that we all have something to offer and than we can make a difference if we work together. I love that Ruby teaches Kate important life lessons like:
“See? you look okay. Not perfect– nobody’s that– but okay. When somebody starts in on you, you just give them a look like, ‘What are you, crazy? It’s me that decides how good I look. And I say I look okay.'”
Justin, Kate’s older brother is also influenced for good by the Wilson family- especially when their son Booker Wilson comes home for holiday. He is a famous baseball player- only he lost his legs to a land mine. This provides another good discussion topic for prejudice against people with disabilities. Justin learns because his family is down on luck, that doesn’t mean he can give up on his dreams.
This fantastic book was adapted as a movie called The Sweetest Gift and was broadcast on Showtime in 1998. It received 3 emmy nominations. I haven’t seen it yet, but I sure would like to!