Farmer Sam owns 10 sheep. At bedtime, he needs to make sure they are all safe, but the counting of sheep works its famous magic: " `One... two... three... four...'/ That's as far as/ he got before he/ started to snore." Sam's sleepiness does not amuse the ewes, who lean against a long pillow, to either side of the snoozing shepherd. " `He always does that!'/ `It's not that hard to count sheep!'/ `Is there something about us that puts him to sleep?' " they ask one another. Meanwhile, in vertical panels along the page margins, a snickering wolf prepares to drop in. When the wolf knocks on the door, wearing a woolly costume, Sam rousts himself and assumes it's one of his herd. His desperate flock must find a way to keep him awake until he sees they're all accounted for, and a gatefold shows them staging a brisk one-to-10 performance. Kelly (I Hate Everyone) works from a sturdy premise, but her rhyme's meter often misses a beat. Ayto (The Witch's Children) nicely develops the suspense, cutting from the lethargic farmer to the anxious sheep to the grinning wolf. His visual sequences, goggle-eyed sheep caricatures and saturated watercolor palette of charcoal gray, turquoise and fuchsia on snowy white (even a Mondrian canvas on Sam's wall) strongly recall Satoshi Kitamura's graphics and humor. Despite some derivative elements and bumpy rhymes, this book generates excitement with the tried-and-true sheep vs. wolf formula. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
- Ken Marantz
Sam brings his sheep home one stormy night, cozily settling them into bed with wooly socks and hats. To be sure he has all ten safe from the storm and the hungry wolf, he begins to count them but falls asleep, to the resentment of the indignant sheep. Soon a loud knock on the door wakes them all. Opening it, Sam spies what looks like a lost sheep and invites the ‘precious lambkin" in. We readers, along with the sheep, see that it is really the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing. The frightened sheep insist that Sam count them, but he reminds them that counting sheep is "a first-class ticket to the Land of Nod." The sheep finally prove their point with a stirring performance that spreads across the double page onto a fold-out. Sam sees the count, throws out the wolf, and counts his "boring sheep" to sleep. The delightful rhyming text is filled with word play and humor, matched by Ayto's hilarious double handful of minimal sheep in their striped hats and knee-socks. The visual story starts on the page before the title page where a tiny stealthy wolf climbs up one side of a hill. The title page displays the other side, where the sheep follow Sam. The rectangular pieces of the quilt on their bed echo the shapes of the endpapers and fields outside. Black ink lines and watercolors with "a little bit of pencil crayon for the hats and socks" create characters charged with comedy with little detail necessary.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-Counting sheep has long been the suggested cure for insomnia, but for Sam that's not the problem. He needs to keep track of his herd of 10, but each time he tries to count them, he nods off before he finishes. The sheep conclude that they must be too boring to keep the shepherd alert and that they must find a way to be more interesting. This becomes imminently important when a wolf in sheep's clothing appears at the door on a stormy night. Just as the man is about to let him in, the real sheep insist that he count one more time. They put on a show, and at last he is able to keep his eyes open long enough to count the chorus line. The wolf is left out in the storm, and the sheep and Sam go back to bed. The rhyming text is somewhat inconsistent. Some lines are exact rhymes; others are very loosely rhymed-so loose it's hard to recognize the lines as verse. This and the uneven cadence make the story difficult to read smoothly. However, children will giggle over the comical illustrations. The rounded bodies of Sam and his sheep (on two legs) walk up over the quilted hills, creating their own rhythm. The white sheep with their dark faces and striped stocking caps pull readers' eyes across the pages. Laughter will ring out when the wolf's loud knock literally scares the hats and socks right off them as they slumber. Pair this tale with Rob Scotton's Russell the Sheep (HarperCollins, 2005) for a wide-awake storytime.-Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Shortlisted for the Greenaway Medal, this hilarious import features a clever wolf, a nearsighted shepherd with a short attention span and a plot spun out through an artful blend of irregular rhyme and wordless scenes. Sam only has ten sheep, but like many of us he falls asleep as soon as he even starts counting them. This leaves him susceptible, one windy night, to an extra, slightly disguised "sheep," who comes knocking. Fortunately, his real sheep are alert to the threat, so in a climactic double gatefold they put on a lively revue that proves to their drowsy keeper that his ten are already present, and leaves the flamboozled wolf out on the moor to spin away into the storm. Fluffy, wide-eyed sheep with striped nightcaps dance across the pages of this knee-slapper, then nestle down with Sam in a wide bed for a well-earned snooze. (Picture book. 5-7)