Bettina Ehrlich – The Goat Boy

Second edition published by For Pity Sake Publishing, 2019
First published by Oxford University Press 1965

This is the second in a series of picture books by the late Austrian artist Bettina Ehrlich to be re-published by For Pity Sake Publishing.

Working from the artist’s originals, the company has brought these books back to life for a new generation of children and their parents. The original books are much loved possessions of For Pity Sake founder Jennifer McDonald’s family, so much so that FPS obtained the rights to re-publish a series of them.

The Goat Boy is a tale within a tale. Miss Patricia Higgins who teaches German in an English girls. School goes to Austria for her holiday to practice the German language and enjoy the mountain scenery. Whist on her walk one day she encounters an elderly gentleman, who recounts the story of Toni, a goat boy who must take his family’s herd to the mountain pastures each day to graze.

He is a very good child but suffers from a terrible fear of thunderstorms. And it is this that brings him undone for he is caught in a storm one day and flees, losing three of the herd. However, a touch of magic, in the form of a naiad, saves the day for Toni.

We are left to wonder if the story may also bring something magic into the lives of Miss Higgins and the elderly gentleman.

Bettina Ehrlich tells her stories with a delicate touch, with great empathy for her characters and with deceptively simple, graphic prose. These are stories to be read aloud to children and grandchildren many times, searching in the pictures for details and in the layers of the story for secrets and nuances.