Friday, April 01, 2011

Don't Count on It! No Sleep for the Sheep by Karen Beaumont

In the big red barn on the farm, on the farm, in the big red barn on the farm... A sheep fell asleep in the big red barn, in the big red barn on the farm.

Sheep is ready to sleep, teddy bear under his arm, and he is not counting on helping anyone else get to sleep tonight. Settled down in the fresh hay in a comfy stall, with only by a tiny yellow chick for a roommate, sheep is already snoring away soundly when he is disturbed by a dissonant sound that blasts him out of his somnolent state:

Then there came a loud QUACK at the door, at the door, and the sheep couldn't sleep any more.

Disgruntled, the sheep staggers sleepily to the door and escorts the duck to the stall with whispered instructions:

"Go to sleep" said the sheep, to the duck at the door. "And please don't QUACK any more!"

Even the teddy bear looks grumpy as the disheveled sheep, the duck, and the chick resettle themselves in the stall for what sheep obviously hopes will at last be undisturbed slumber. But in the best tradition of the venerable cumulative tale, this dream is not to be. Sheep is constantly roused from his snores by a succession of supposedly sleepless animals--a goat, pig, a cow, and as horse--who Baa!, Oink!, Moo!, and Neigh! their way in to seek a snooze with Sheep in the increasingly snugger stall, with Chick constantly forced to clamber atop the pile to avoid being squashed. With the huge horse hogging half the sleeping space, there is definitely no room in the stable!

"Shhhh! Not a peep! Go to sleep!" said the sheep.

But there's ONE more farm animal who hasn't yet gotten the message, whose identity is hinted at by the light of dawn glimpsed through the window as the heap of animals finally drifts off to sleep together:

In Karen Beaumont's forthcoming No Sleep for the Sheep! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), sheep attempts to sleep in but chick gets the last word, (a PEEP!), in a inventive reworking of the traditional always-room-for-one-more premise. As always, Beaumont's verses are so rhythmical that young listeners will start joining in on the irresistible repetition as sheep issues his orders to each animal in turn.

But Beaumont's text virtually takes off when paired with Jackie Urbanovic's comic brown pencil and watercolor illustrations, which add immeasurably to the effect. Even the teddy, eyes always shut, has a role. and sheep's facial expressions are priceless as he is blasted from his slumbers by the pig and hugely hugged by the horse. Kids will gleefully pick up on the clever visual device by which Urbanovic telegraphs the identity of each approaching midnight visitor to the barn, even as each time sheep settles down to what he believes will finally be a good night's sleep. Both Beaumont (I Like Myself!, and I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards))) and Jackie Urbanovic (Duck at the Door and sequels) are no strangers to best-sellerdom, and their No Sleep for the Sheep! looks like it's got all the right stuff to keep its readers wide awake and calling for more from this delightful duo!

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