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Ann Patchet, Robin Preiss Glasser Collaborate In Children's Book About A Wiley Goat


(Reading) Once there was a goat who lived in a pen on a farm.

Let's ask Ann Patchett, the distinguished novelist who often writes for ostensibly grown-up children, and Robin Preiss Glasser, the creator and illustrator of the "Fancy Nancy" books, among many others, to read a few lines more into their new book.

ANN PATCHETT: (Reading) He played hide-and-seek with the chickens on the other side of the fence.

ROBIN PREISS GLASSER: (Reading) He ran in circles until he got dizzy and watched the clouds spin overhead.

PATCHETT: (Reading) He slept in a soft bed of hay, which made a great snack if he got hungry late at night.

GLASSER: (Reading) Good morning, goat.

PATCHETT: (Reading) It was a perfectly nice life, but he was curious about the greater world, and so he decided to escape.

SIMON: What happens then? Ann Patchett and Robin Preiss Glasser join us from Nashville and Southern California, respectively. Their new collaboration is "Escape Goat." Thank you so much for being with us.

PATCHETT: Thank you for having us.

GLASSER: Thank you.

SIMON: Well, I don't want to give away too much about the story of "Escape Goat." But let's put it this way - because the little goat can't speak, at least in ways we humans understand, it's easy for people to point their fingers at him, isn't it?

PATCHETT: Yes. And the origin of this story comes from the fact that when I was a kid and maybe a little longer than when I was a kid, I thought that the term scapegoat meant if you did something wrong, you blamed a goat. And as everyone knows once they've grown up, a scapegoat is a person who gets blamed for the things that other people do wrong. When I first had this idea, I looked it up. I thought, well, surely somebody has already written a book called "Escape Goat." And surely everybody thinks that scapegoat is about blaming goats.

GLASSER: (Laughter).

PATCHETT: But no. No (laughter).

SIMON: And I don't want to use a cloying word like lesson, but is there something you hope people might find out in reading this book?

GLASSER: What I'd like to say about that is that I've really enjoyed talking with children in schools. I've been doing some Zoom schools and libraries and asking the kids after I finished reading what they felt about the story because the goat gets blamed for everything bad that goes on the farm with this family. The mother blames the goat, and the kids are lying. And the fifth graders understood why the kids in the story lied because they said they lie because they're afraid of getting in trouble. Then the kindergarteners were identifying with the goat because they said their older siblings were always blaming them for things. And then they were also shocked that the adult, the mom in particular, lies in this story. And we had a great discussion about trust and how if you can't trust your adults to tell you the truth, everything falls apart. And I realized how very political this story was and didn't intend it to be a political story.

SIMON: And I - that lets me introduce the first book you did together a couple of years ago was "Lambslide." Newly pertinent now, isn't it?

PATCHETT: Right, because that's the story of - the lambs think that they are getting a lambslide (ph) when, in fact, one of the farmer children has won school president by a landslide. They go to their mother. They say, how do we get a lambslide? You've got to get all of the animals to work together. You've got to see how the other animals feel about having a giant slide. And so they go, they talk to the pigs and the chickens and the goats, and they find out how all these animals feel about getting a lambslide. And then all the animals on the farm vote. Who knew that when we were putting this together, books about voting and telling the truth on the farm would be so pertinent?

GLASSER: And what I really love about these books is how they resonated. I spoke to a library in Chicago, and I had a bunch of older kids. And all of them were really upset with what they're getting on their computers, with the memes and with, you know, all the screaming and yelling coming out of the Internet and out of the television sets about adults lying right now. Who do they trust? They're really confused. So it's a really important thing for parents to be discussing with their kids.

SIMON: Should the two of you ever in the future write another book about a goat, may I suggest a name for you for the goat?

PATCHETT: Yes, please.

SIMON: A couple years ago, I met a goat, and I named him Noam Chompsky (ph). What do you think?

PATCHETT: I really, really like that...

SIMON: (Laughter).

GLASSER: ...Really like that.

PATCHETT: I think we can work with that.

SIMON: Ann Patchett, author, and Robin Preiss Glasser - their book, Escape Goat" - thank you so much for being with us.

PATCHETT: Thank you so much.

GLASSER: Thank you for having us.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOMENIQUE DUMONT SONG, "COMME CA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.