February 22, 2018

How Goats Became the Inspiration Behind My Children’s Books

by Kathleen Callaghan Mendenhall

I love writing children’s books about my goats and dogs.  However, it wasn’t always that way.  I have a very silly nature.  But, the silliness didn’t fit into my lifestyle as a successful urban secretary.  Silliness isn’t like a spigot that turns on and off, so I turned the silly spigot off for a long time.


A few years ago my husband and I moved to the Sierra foothills and purchased a few acres of land.  As is usually the case with the land fantasy, the animal fantasy soon followed.   We purchased a couple of funny looking retired goats.  I had never had a pet of my own (okay, does a lizard count?), and I wasn’t particularly fond of animals.  Yes, I would pet the dogs and cats of friends, but I never really got to know the animals.  They were just little fur sacks that got my clothes dirty.


So imagine me with my two new goat charges.  I looked at them and asked, “What do you do?”   They looked back at me and asked, “What do YOU do?!”    These weren’t the cute little goats I had always seen in nursery rhymes.  These were the kind of goats that you see on cave paintings.   After a few days they started eating their share of grass and we supplemented their foraging with hay.


I would see them trying to stick their boney necks through the fence to get to the great blackberry bushes and other delectable treats.  I thought I would just help out and chop some brush treats for them.  Oh, was I rewarded by the sparkle and gleam of gratitude in their eyes.  I thought “Imagine! All of my life I have tried giving often unappreciated gifts to friends and family and here I can pull a weed and I became the queen of everything!”


That did it.  I fell in love and I think, in their way, they loved me.


Over the last eight years we have had our share of loss as we acquired a family of goat mamas, babies, grannies, and the dogs who guard them.  I have never felt such depth of love and caring as I now have for my husband and for these animals.


I never had the opportunity to have children, but having these animals has given me a second chance to learn about love, caring, letting go in death, and the beauty of birth.  Over the years our bond has grown and I am now considered part of the herd.  My husband and I share the love of these wonderful creatures.


Now back to my silly nature.   While my husband enjoyed me singing my silly songs and dances, the world looks askance upon a skipping 62-year-old.  I started wondering “How can I use my gift of silliness with the stories that come to me from the goats?”   My first venture into book-dom was driving down the road and hearing the rhyming story of Moo Moo Sue emerging from my lips.


I have often thought I wanted to make a difference.  I am not a teacher, a scientist, a mother, doctor, or even a parent.  How can I make a difference?  Then these wonderful stories came rolling out of me with their moral messages and teaching about ways we can be kinder to one another.


I hope that these books will put a big smile on the face of a child, and on the faces of mom and dad as well.


Kathleen is the author of Giggling Goats & Buddy Too.  For more information visit imgoatie.com


  1. What fun to discover a fellow children’s book writer about goats! I began writing about goats in 2010 after retiring from an education career of over 30 years. I have always loved animals and was raised on a small farm in NYS. Now my husband and I raise goats (and golden retrievers) on a small ranch in CO. The goats’ “job” is to eat the weeds and grasses on our ranch for fire mitigation. However, they are such amusing critters that I just had to write stories about them. “Nana’s Silly Goats” is a picture book for primary grade children. It tells the story of bringing home our first four little goats “with a sprinkle of imagination”. Now I am working on a chapter book for intermediate grade students. “Bully Goat to the Rescue” helps children understand about bulllying, and also introduces them to safe hiking practices, mountain rescue techniques, and 4-H. I love writing, but also love teaching — so I combine both by writing the drafts of stories, doing revision work with students, and then publishing the final works myself. A new adventure at age 60!

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