Janice Kulyk Keefer, illus. by Janet Wilson. Orca, $15.95 (32p) ISBN 1-55143-153-X

Keefer (Honey and Ashes, for adults) makes her children's book debut with this disappointing tale of a child's friendship with the goat that fortifies her, based on a true story of WWII. The book opens with the birth of baby Anna in an indeterminate "cold, dark country," to which her parents and older sister fled when the war drove them from their homeland, and covers her early childhood. When Mother can no longer nurse Anna, her factory co-workers give the woman a goat, which keeps "the children safe and warm and full as summer"; a towel that the goat often pulled off of the laundry line serves as Anna's remembrance of the animal when they leave it behind at war's end. Unfortunately, rather than emphasizing the universality of the family's experiences, a number of vague references may well disorient readers. For instance, Anna's father is "sent to live in another village," and the native city to which the family returns is described only in terms of its parks, palaces, trees and cafés that "had been bombed into rubble." Also, after the war, the father suddenly reappears in the text with no description of the family's reunion. Rendered on colored paper with Conté crayons, Wilson's (Me and Mr. Mah) intentionally grainy, golden-toned artwork is at its strongest with the portraits of the main characters; some of her other illustrations, perhaps due to the vagueness of the setting in the text, are sketchy and undefined. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)