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4.4 28
by Valerie Hobbs

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The sheep closed in around him like a big, woolly blanket. The puppy had never been so scared or so excited in his life. Soon he was racing, feinting, dodging—learning what it means to be one of the proud breed of Border collies, the finest sheepherders in the world. Then, almost overnight, his life is turned upside down. He finds himself in a series of


The sheep closed in around him like a big, woolly blanket. The puppy had never been so scared or so excited in his life. Soon he was racing, feinting, dodging—learning what it means to be one of the proud breed of Border collies, the finest sheepherders in the world. Then, almost overnight, his life is turned upside down. He finds himself in a series of strange places, with no sheep, his family gone. With nothing but the courage he was born with and a dream, he searches for the life he once knew, gathering names and adventures as he goes. For a short time, he's called Blackie. To the Goat Man, he's Shep. To Hollerin, he's Spot. There's one name that threatens to haunt him forever—Sparky, the name Billy the circus man calls him. But there's another name that he is given, one that finally makes him feel at home. . . .

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The classic foundling story is beautifully told in the dog's simple, first-person voice.” —Booklist

“Believable and satisfying. It's a winner.” —School Library Journal

“The attitude that carries Jack through adventure after adventure . . . will win readers over and keep them rooting for him all the way.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Children who love animal stories will delight in this first person--or should I say first-dog?--tale.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Hobbs portrays the ups and downs of life both humorously and sensitively as seen and felt by a very special border collie; a story that young readers will remember as a journey of the heart.” —Signal

Publishers Weekly
A Border collie, Jack, narrates his story of multiple homes, owners and names in this flawed outing by Hobbs (Tender; Defiance). When lightning destroys the California sheep ranch of his puppyhood, Jack is sold to a pet shop. He flees his mismatched adoptive family, then drifts from one human to another. Ever hopeful of reconnecting with the higher calling of his breed (herding sheep), Jack settles over "a good many dog years" for food and companionship. There's a happy interlude with the itinerant "Goat Man" and a hardscrabble turn with a pair of homeless thieves. Jack performs in a circus run by the brutal Billy, and falls in love with the baleful, elegant dog Tiffany. When (another) fire breaks out, Jack herds an angry elephant away from the fleeing crowd, then escapes (with Tiffany's maudlin blessing); eventually his good turn with an orphan helps Jack, too, land the perfect home-a sheep ranch. Much strains credulity here: Jack's hard times and heroics evoke not so much the likes of Lad: A Dog or The Incredible Journey, as the bathos of a Disney feature. While Hobbs captures some doggy details well (such as Jack's preoccupation with smells), stereotypical characters, the too-human narration, and Jack's unsettling habit of referring to characters by inferred names (e.g., Hollerin, Retardo), ultimately detract from the thrust of the tale. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Written from the perspective of a sheepdog named Jack, this novel takes the reader through a heartbreaking journey of a dog in search of a home. Ripped from his parents as a pup when the farm they worked on was ravaged by fire, Jack is forced to search for new work on his own. He encounters a few kind people, such as the "Goat Man" who takes Jack with him on his travels, but mostly bounces from one abusive owner to the next, and finds himself in the pound twice, all the while missing his parents. Some animal lovers might find parts of his story disturbing, yet the author makes it clear from the beginning that Jack eventually finds what he is looking for. He comes across a child who is in need of a home as much as he is, and they take care of each other. This book will especially appeal to readers that have adopted animals from shelters. 2006, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 8 to 12.
—Erin Pelletier
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-With a sure hand, Hobbs develops an engaging story told through the eyes of a border collie whose purposeful existence on Bob and Ellen's sheep ranch ends abruptly after a fire. From that point the canine's name changes as he moves from person to person, situation to situation. Some are tolerable: the Goat Man talks philosophically as he journeys nowhere in particular along the highway. Others are intolerably cruel: when the dog refuses to perform a humiliating act, the circus trainer beats him mercilessly. The character of the dog is sympathetically delineated through realistic observations and plot developments, and readers will be drawn into his story. The resolution-his connection to an orphan boy who also finds a home-is both believable and satisfying. This title will have appeal for independent readers searching for a shorter book; it will also make a strong read-aloud choice for a broad range of grade levels. It's a winner.-Lee Bock, Glenbrook Elementary School, Pulaski, WI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A Border collie, down on his luck, searches for his life's work: a few good sheep. The agreeable narrator goes through a series of names, but the various monikers given him clearly have little effect on his own supremely confident sense of self ("He had to know how smart I was. I'm a Border collie, after all"). After a brief taste of fulfillment on a sheep ranch, the narrator is sold to a pet shop, then to an obnoxious little girl. From there, he meets up with a philosophizing Beat vagabond, a pair of drifters and a vicious circus owner before finding Luke, an orphan and fellow lost soul who names him Jack. While Jack's narration lacks the spot-on eagerness of Cynthia Voigt's Angus and Sadie (2005) or the in-the-skin reach for realism of Ann Martin's A Dog's Life (2005), what it lacks in doggie authenticity it makes up for in sass. The attitude that carries Jack through adventure after adventure to nothing short of a fairy-tale ending-complete with sheep-will win readers over and keep them rooting for him all the way. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.64(w) x 5.12(h) x 0.38(d)
660L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt



MY NAME IS JACK, but it wasn't always. I've had so many names I can't even remember them all. Some names were good, some were bad. Some I don't like to remember. But I like the name Jack just fine. It's the one Luke gave me, and he's my best friend.

Until I found Luke, life was a long, hard road. I'd traveled too many days on an empty stomach, slept too many nights in the rain, gone too long without a friend. I was giving up hope, which is about the worst thing you can do. Hope is everything.

When I was a youngster, I was filled with hope. But I was trouble, too. Trouble with a capital T, Mom said. Always poking my nose where it didn't belong, getting into mischief. Nobody thought I'd amount to much. But young as I was, I knew better. There was a job for me out there in the world, something big and important. All I had to do was find out what it was. Meanwhile, I had to stay out of trouble.

Hanging around the ranch all day with Mom was downright boring. There was only so much you couldthink up to do without getting into trouble. And if you were real bad, well then Mom made you take a nap. She sure didn't think I was ready for anything big and important. So I was counting on Bob.

Bob smelled like smoke and hay, that's what I remember. Cooked eggs, coffee, toast crumbs, applesauce, pig meat, soap. I loved him so much it hurt not to show it. As soon as I heard him coming, I'd want to race out and throw myself against his legs, bark and yip, run in circles like a fool. But I wouldn't let myself, not then. I had to show him that I could be counted on. That I was ready for the sheep. So while the others whined and jumped and tried to get his attention, I'd stand real still, cock my head just so, and give him my best sheep eye. That's the look you give the sheep to make them behave.

And then I'd just lose it, I'd get so excited I'd be all over him. Yapping, licking his big, rough hands. I just couldn't help myself.

Bob had dark things on his mind in those days, you could tell by the way his forehead bunched all up. There were lots of things to worry about on a California sheep ranch. He wasn't humming or talking real low to my dad and the fellas the way he did sometimes. He'd pat a nose stuck under his hand, but it was like he wasn't there. He'd forget things, too. Then Ellen would come running out of the house. "Bob? You forgot your gloves! Bob? You forgot your hat!" Ellen and Bob loved each other a whole lot, even a pup could tell. But things weren't righton the ranch. None of the fellas knew why, except maybe Old Dex, the lead dog, and he wasn't saying. There was talk of selling, but we pups didn't understand about that.

As far as I knew, every day was the same and that was how it would always be. Bob would come for the fellas, slapping his gloves together, blowing clouds through the cold, dark air. He'd fill their bowls with food and water and set them down where he knew the fellas wanted them. Then, while we pups swarmed around his ankles, he'd fill one big bowl for us. The second he set it down, we'd attack like a pack of ill-mannered bloodhounds. Even I would forget about making a good impression. I'd push and shove and keep my nose right in there. A day without a full belly wasn't a day I wanted to live.

Well, that's how you think when you're young, before you see the long road ahead. Full-belly days are all you know.

When breakfast was over, Bob would round up the fellas for the workday. Old Dex would lead the way to the truck, followed by Dad. They'd jump in first, then the others behind them. Bob would latch the tailgate and climb into the cab. I'd watch the rusty red truck drive away, hoping that, just once, it would stop. That Bob would remember he'd forgotten one last thing: me. But the truck always kept going to that place at the edge of the land where it disappeared.

The rest of the day I'd try to keep myself busy, chasinggophers, playing sticks with my brothers, taking long naps with Mom. But even in my sleep I'd listen for the truck, waiting for the fellas to return and talk about their day.

Oh, they never said much. Work was work, you know. When you're as good as they were, you don't need to brag. You simply go out and do what you were born to do. That's the way it is with Border collies, the way it's been for centuries. I thought I'd never be one of them, except in name. Never get to run with the sheep. I'd always be a mama's boy, a pesky pup, a reject.

And then it came, a day that started like all the others and changed my life forever. Bob said, "Come, boy." And he meant me.

Me? My ears went straight up, but the rest of me froze. Me?

"Come, boy," Bob said again, in that low voice, so kind. And then I was off like a shot, straight up into the back of the truck, my tail trying its best to wag my hind end clean off.

Old Dex just rolled his eyes at me, the way dogs do.

Well, you wouldn't know.

We rode out through heaven, grass so green and lush you felt like chewing on it. I raced from one side of the truck bed to the other, sticking my nose between the slats, while the land rolled on and on, not a house or barn anywhere. The air was clean and cold and filled with what I had no name for. Excitement is probablywhat you'd call it. But it was more than that, though I didn't know it then. I figured if all we did was ride out to where the world ended and back again, well, that would be enough for me.

That was before I saw the sheep. Sheep everywhere! The truck stopped, and they closed in all around us like a big gray woolly blanket, bawling and baaing, stinking like, well, like sheep. Bob hopped down out of the cab and pushed his way through them to the back of the truck. When he lowered the tailgate, the fellas jumped down, working the sheep the minute they hit the ground, rounding them up without even trying.

I hung back, a little soft in the belly, if you know what I mean. Nervous. They were bigger than I was, every last one, and so many I couldn't count them, more sheep than I thought there were in the whole wide world.

Well, you didn't have to count them, though I didn't know it then. You just sort of felt them, Dad said. That was how you knew when one went missing. You felt it somewhere inside you. Sounded crazy to me. The smell was bad enough. But feeling sheep? I didn't like the sound of that. I figured if worst came to worst, and the sheep wouldn't do what I wanted, well, I'd just bite them. But I learned soon enough that wasn't the way. Only as a last resort would a dog bite a sheep.

You should have seen Dad and Old Dex, how they got those woolly guys all moving in the same direction. You could tell the sheep didn't like it. They'd have torun a little, which they hated, so they grumbled the whole time. One old ewe really had her back up. She turned, frowned at the dogs, and tried to hold her ground. It came down to her and Old Dex then, him with his snout low, ready to leap left or right. And that eye he gave her! It made you shiver just to watch.

The old lady just couldn't hold out against that eye. She gave Old Dex one last haughty look, then turned away and trotted off after the others, her fat little tail between her legs.

I ran back and forth, trying to look like I knew what I was doing, practicing my sheep eye. The sheep ignored me, like I was a pesky fly. After a while Dad told me to calm down, but I couldn't. I'd gotten a taste of what life was all about, and I didn't want to miss a second of it.

"Keep your eye on Old Dex," Dad said. "You've got a chance to learn from a master." And so I did. Wherever Old Dex went, that was where I'd try to be. But it wasn't easy. One second he'd be racing full out alongside the flock, then he'd stop, ears up, and cut the other way. Bob would call an order from a long way off, telling you what he wanted, and you had to do it right then. It was tricky, but when you got the sheep going the way they were supposed to, like a big muddy gray river rolling across the land, you were happy inside. It was better than a good meal, better than a rubdown, even better than Mom saying you were her own best boy (well, she said it to my brothers, too, I know shedid). When the sheep were right, you had that deep down good feeling that you were making a difference. You were doing what you were meant to do, what you believed in, what you were really good at.

I'll tell you, nothing in the world is better than that.

The day came to an end too soon for me. We all bounded back up into the truck, and as the land took that last lick of the sun, we headed home. I'd learned more than my head could hold. I knew for certain my purpose in this life, and I was ready to do it, flat out, with all my heart.

But it was not to be. One day, when we'd gathered all the sheep and were driving them down to the barns, a storm rose up out of nowhere. The wind began to moan and cry. Lightning struck all around, and the dry grass caught fire. I saw Bob, riding his horse, Appie, look behind us to where the sky was turning orange. I heard him call an order. Then he pulled his bandanna up over his nose, gave Appie a slap, and raced ahead. We dogs went into top speed, pushing those sheep, even nipping their heels when they wouldn't run. Something was crackling behind us. I turned and saw the tongues of flame licking, racing to catch up with us.

"Don't look back!" Old Dex barked. "Run!"

I ran. Ran until I thought I couldn't run another step, until I couldn't see the sheep for the smoke, and then I ran some more.

SHEEP. Copyright © 2006 by Valerie Hobbs. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America by R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company, Harrisonburg, Virginia. For information, address Square Fish, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

Meet the Author

Valerie Hobbs is the recipient of the 1999 PEN/Norma Klein Award, a biennial prize that recognizes "an emerging voice of literary merit among American writers of children's fiction." She is the author of young adult and middle-grade novels including Defiance, Anything but Ordinary, and The Last Best Days of Summer. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she has taught academic writing. Valerie lives in Santa Barbara, California, with her husband.

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Sheep 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Bigsister More than 1 year ago
This wonderful story reminds me of Black Beauty in that it is written through the eyes of the main character, the sheepdog. A Perfect vehicle for parents or teachers who want an opening into discussions about how our actions affect others and how we need to fight for the right to our freedom from tyranny. Too violent for younger readers, but great for 9-10 years old and up. It is well written with an easy language and a seamless style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This amazing story is told by a pure bred border collie, who lives on a farm and his life goal is to heard sheep. But soon, tht changes when his beloved farmer has to sell him. After that Jack's life just becomes a mess. I recomend this around 9 and up
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book it was so fun to read its kind of sad I have to admit but overall this is a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that sheep is the best book ever now i only read about 30 pages but it is awsome so far!! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book i ever read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book deffinitly a favorite. I read a few years ago in 6th grade. I wouldn't really call this book sad. More like intense at some parts. The animal cruelty really got to me but it ends on a happy note. I reccomend this to anyone who like me enjoys hering the dog's point of view.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sad but inspiring just as most dog stories are
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty sad. I couldnt buy it bdcause i dint have a credit card and my mom wont let me get any books so i just play aroubd in this. Anyways i have it on paper copy so i rea it a million times. I love this book. HOPE YOU READ IT!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of my faves read it when i was ten highly recommended for any animal lovers
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book it is my favorite book. It is about a little puppy and he goes on amazing trips to ...... Can't tell the rest sorry but it is awsome. Love it!!!!!!!!
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Welcome to the clan, gamers! My name is Zesty_Lemon and I am the founder/head of the SHEEEEEP CLAN. Thank yoU for joining us today! Leave a personal description of yourself in a reply to this message. Enjoy the CLAN!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Got it. Anything else? Shiuld it be like it happeed in the past tense or present tense?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Type in wolf it is great and sad but it is good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think the dogs name is Jack! Sorry about that. My report starts out like this: I love this book. It is a great heart-warming story about a dog........ and so on. Sorry about that mistake.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can i join Names Wind Slayer I play roblox, minecraft, and PAD