Kay, Ellie May. There’s a Goat on My Porch. Book Review.

Click here to buy There’s a Goat on My Porch

There are two essential things for successful picture book. The first is that it must sound engaging when read aloud. It is not, I repeat not essential to make a book rhyme. I have critiqued dozens of rhyming books that should never have been written this way. Unfortunately this book is one of them. If you attempt the difficult task of writing a book in rhyme, you must be able to maintain the beat and the pattern consistently throughout the entire text without resorting to convoluted sentence structure. Let’s examine what has happened in this book. It starts with long lines that read smoothly.

11 syllables pasture. 12 syllables disaster. 10 syllables haste. 11 syllables chased.

At this point it starts to stumble, breaking both the pattern and the beat.

12 syllables watchmen. 8 syllables den. 10 pen.

Then it goes back to longer sentences with inconsistent beat and a rather clumsy rhyme.

11 frenzy. 14 coyote

From this point on, the rhyming pattern completely falls apart.

10 goat. 9 porch. 10 lunch. 5 chair. 5 pear. 9 screen. 10 scene. 6 feed. 5 breed. 11 pen. 11 men. 7 coop. 6 snoop. 7 bed. 6 led. 6 can. 7 plan. 10 inside. 12 hide.

Read aloud, as children’s picture books should be, the text jerks and stumbles.

For some excellent examples of rhyming in picture books, read Eric Carl’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, many of Dr. Seuss books,(he wrote over 1000 pages of rhyming text in order to find the perfect 64 pages worth publishing) and Maurice Sendak’s Chicken Soup With Rice A Book of Months. Here’s a site listing more examples. 

If you haven’t had a lot of practice writing rhyming poetry, it’s unlikely you can write a children’s rhyming book. This is why a lot of publishers state in their submission guidelines that they will not accept rhyming books. It adds another level of difficulty to the text. For more information go to this excellent blog.

The story of There’s a Goat on My Porch is actually endearing. If the author had written without rhyming, this book could have been something really cute. Children love mischief makers like Curious George. Many children have never interacted with a goat which probably seems as exotic as a monkey.

The second essential component of a children’s book is the illustrations. They must be engaging, connect well with the text, and expand the child’s understanding of the text. Ellie Mae Kay’s illustrations are unique. They seem to be photographs that have gone through a Photoshop filter that makes them look like watercolors. The compositions vary and the shots of the farm are realistic and informative. However, considering the zaniness of the story, I think the pictures would have benefited from more expressiveness.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages



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