cover image One More Sheep

One More Sheep

Mij Kelly, , illus. by Russell Ayto. . Peachtree, $16.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-56145-378-8

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.)