Rob Scotton, Author, Rob Scotton, Illustrator . Harper-Collins

Humans who have trouble falling asleep have been known to count sheep. But what do insomniacs of the woolly-coated variety do? Russell, a sheep longing for shuteye, is on the case in this sweet-natured picture book. When all is quiet except for Russell, the playfully stocking-capped critter tries everything to lull himself into slumber. Making things darker doesn't help: "the really dark really scared him." And searching for a new place to get cozy is a bust, too. ("He tried the hollow of a tree./ That was too creepy !") At long last he gives counting a go: his feet, the stars in the sky—and ultimately, sheep—to fine effect. British native Scotton's children's book debut blends silly and warm into the kind of package that appeals to a broad age range. His stylized sheep—all fleecy white fluff atop matchstick-thin legs, with ping-pong-ball eyes—are simultaneously endearing and comic against a dark night-sky background. The compositions vary in perspective, and Scotton uses spot illustrations to pick up the pace, and framed full-spread paintings when Russell takes a pause. This fresh-feeling bedtime story about one animal's restless ramblings should prove an entertaining send-off-to-the-Sandman for young readers. Ages 3-7. (Apr.)