cover image WOOL GATHERING: A Sheep Family Reunion

WOOL GATHERING: A Sheep Family Reunion

Lisa Wheeler, , illus. by Frank Ansley. . Atheneum/Jackson, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84369-3

This waggish collection of poems about an unorthodox family get-together brims with enough visual and verbal fun to appeal to both parents and children alike. The felicitous combination of whimsical watercolors and quick-witted text features a rambunctious, munching family with a plethora of spring "Lambie Kins" who get "passed from sheep to sheep/ and kissed and kissed and kissed!" Newcomer Wheeler is not sheepish about clever puns and wordplay; the character poems especially stand out. "Sister Alabaster," the Kung-Fu master, "sure knows her chops"; "Aunt Eweginia" always makes "ewesful" things—even as she "knits till she is nude." The design deserves kudos, too: on one spread, the sheep play "Baa-dminton" and opt for nibbling grass over perfecting their swing while, opposite, "Brunch," shows a baseball diamond and describes "A nibble here/ A nibble there/ Where has the infield gone?" The layout also plays up the punch line for a couple of poems: goofy "Woolverton" carries a bouquet of flowers and wears a love-sick expression, but doesn't know his true love is a cow (revealed with the turn of a page), and "Hiram's Horns" are so magnificent, the family decorates them each Christmas (a full spread is dedicated to their finery). These irresistible sheep relatives will captivate young readers from the time they arrive to their last "So long... farewool... good-baaa." Ages 3-6. (Oct.)