“Sixty-eight,” said Duncan.
Sheep #68 stepped into position,
And then hesitated. Duncan paused his counting and waited.
He waited and waited and waited.
Sleep, Sheep! addresses a common concern for children and parents: not wanting to go to bed! Duncan will do anything to avoid going to bed. He uses many excuses that children may be able to relate to: he needs a drink of water, he needs to go to the bathroom, he was too cold…or too warm. Duncan’s mom tries to predict and respond to every one of Duncan’s excuses. Finally, she resorts to the age old, “Try counting sheep.” Now things get fun. Duncan counts the most interesting group of sheep, and Mom’s strategy seems to be working, until Duncan gets to Sheep #68. Duncan meets his match in this sheep who has as many excuses to not be counted as Duncan has for not going to bed.
Kerry Lyn Sparrow has written a highly relatable book filled with humour and empathy. While children may see themselves in both Duncan and Sheep #68, they will also appreciate the gentleness and support that both characters are given, even in the face of mounting frustration. Sparrow’s use of description adds another layer to the text, “Sheep #69, in his sleekest racing suit and extra springy sneakers, looked expectantly at Duncan…But Duncan was fast asleep.” Sparrow has made the purposefully boring task of counting sheep interesting and delightful.
Guillaume Perreault illustrations provide a range of emotions and personality, all in soft colours, perfect for a bedtime story. Each page provides so many opportunities for observation and conversation. Some pages have labels, others have small details hidden on shelves and the floor. The personality of each sheep is captured in their expressions, outfits, and accessories. Children will enjoy seeing something new with each reading. Even the small sheep on the endpapers have been illustrated with uniqueness and provide a chance for children to count their own sheep.
Sleep, Sheep! is a pleasure to read and a great addition to a read-aloud collection. Young readers and parents will relate to the experiences in the book and enjoy the humour that can be found in an often-tiring bedtime routine.
Dr. Karen Boyd is Assistant Superintendent Educational Programming with the River East Transcona School Division in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and a former sessional lecturer in YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.