books we love: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep


Book: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

Status: recently finished reading (loved it).

I picked up this book at the final, everything-must-go sale of a beloved local bookstore a while back. Despite my dislike for the reason behind the sale, I was determined to go (as soon as the doors opened, as AJ can attest) and bring home any interesting-looking books we could find.

We were among the first in line and in the door when it opened. AJ headed straight for the history section and the cookbooks, while I pored over the several tables’ worth of fiction.

Oftentimes, I’ll contemplate a book for a while before buying it. But with the crowd of people attending book-sale day, there was no time for lengthy contemplation. And at just $5 a pop for hardbacks, and $2 apiece for paperbacks, there wasn’t really any reason to hesitate, either.

So nearly any book that caught my eye as I perused the fiction tables — and then after a closer look, made me think, “Oooohhh” — went on the growing stack. (I walked away from that sale with eight novels for my to-read pile, one that a friend had recommended a week or so earlier, and seven I’d never heard of.)

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (by Joanna Cannon) secured a spot in that stack when I flipped open the front cover to read the blurb and saw, “Spunky, spirited [ten-year-old] Grace and quiet, thoughtful Tilly go door-to-door in search of clues …”

When I was about Grace and Tilly’s age, my best friend and I (probably after reading too many Nancy Drew books) were intent on solving a “mystery” that we had somehow dreamed up. We found “clues” everywhere: a mysterious-looking person, a dead bird. I have no recollection of what the mystery may have been that we were trying to solve, or what we were searching for, but I do remember talking my dad into letting us dig a huge hole in the yard to look for … clues, treasure? I don’t know. But we certainly enjoyed the thrill of our made-up adventure, and Grace and Tilly’s story called to me as I stood at the bookstore sale and flashed back to my ten-year-old self.



I was again reminded of my younger, bookish, self when (on page 122), “Mrs. Morton pushed the library door, and Tilly and I ducked underneath her arm. After my bedroom, this was my favorite place in the world. … It smelled of unturned pages and unseen adventures, and on every shelf were people I had yet to meet, and places I had yet to visit.”

There is definitely a mystery in these pages. And there is a complicated story of friendship, conformity, misconceptions, misunderstandings, and secrets. The characters are both awful and sympathetic, horrible and kind; in other words, fully human. And a few of these complex people are really quite wise.

I loved this book.


What was the last book you read that made you want to either cry or hold the book close and hug it?

Hi, there! I’m Jennifer, and I help too-busy-to-read bookworms and those who want to *be* readers maximize life’s simple joys — like reading a good book — by helping them create quiet spaces (mentally and physically) inspired by the habits of cats, who are masters at finding joy in life’s small details.

Want to Read & Relax your way to feeling Calmer & Happier?

Subscribe to our occasional Read. Purr. newsletter and, as a free thank-you gift, you’ll receive a copy of our Keys to Unlocking the Magic of a Good Book.

“The only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you.”

W. Somerset Maugham

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”


“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.”

Marcel Proust

“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.”

Helene Hanff

“What a happy woman I am, living in a garden, with books … birds, and flowers, and plenty of leisure to enjoy them!”

Elizabeth von Arnim

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”

Neil Gaiman

“The art of reading is … an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us; when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“When I … looked round at the familiar bookshelves, and could hear no sounds but sounds of peace, and knew that here I might read or dream or idle exactly as I chose with never a creature to disturb me, how grateful I felt to the kindly Fate that has brought me here and given me a heart to understand my own blessedness.”

Elizabeth von Arnim