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Reviewed by Carine Engelbrecht for Readers' Favorite
The story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, as told here by Roar Alexander Mikalsen, has a familiar ring to it. The narrative build-up and the magical power of three can be found in many fairy tales. But in this case, that well-remembered interaction forms merely an introductory chapter. After the goats have satisfied their hunger on the saeter, they return home where new challenges test them on subtler skills. They learn that the troll's presence had been only a symptom of the larger malady that afflicts their world and that their victory has changed them in ways they could not have anticipated.
As with the shorter version, there is an underlying message of empowerment in Roar Alexander Mikalsen's retelling in Billy Goats Gruff, but the added layering modernizes the message in compelling ways. The choices that the three goats face reach beyond the mere confrontation with a bully. It also looks at the many faces of courage, examines the power of compassion, and the yearning for redemption. Each billy goat is blessed with different strengths and weaknesses. The oldest leads with his strength, wisdom, and introspection. The middle goat dreams and blusters, not unlike an awkward teenager testing the boundaries of his world. Of the three, the littlest goat is most relatable. Although timid and fearful at first, he possesses an unquenchable loyalty and the ability to connect empathically with the hearts of others. As each goat might represent a different stage in a child's development and emotional landscape, their thoughts and actions will give young readers the chance to grow into the story and to grow with it.