4.4 25
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 strange

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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 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 forever haunt him - Sparky, the name Billy the circus man calls him when he reaches for the whip. But there's another name that he is given, one that finally makes him feel at home . . .

Known for her rich character development, the author brings all her skills to delving into the mind of a clever, philosophical, and hopeful dog searching for a home.

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Editorial Reviews

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)
The classic foundling story is beautifully told in the dog's simple, first-person voice.
Entertainment Weekly
Children who love animal stories will delight in this first person—or should I say first-dog?—tale.
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.

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Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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By Hobbs, Valerie

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Copyright © 2006 Hobbs, Valerie
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0374367779

From 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 . . . 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 . . .
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 . . .
It was tricky, but when you got the sheep going the way they
were supposed to, 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 . . . 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.


Excerpted from Sheep by Hobbs, Valerie Copyright © 2006 by Hobbs, Valerie. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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