CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 12 . . . . February 17, 2006
The Baabaasheep Quartet.
Leslie Elizabeth Watts.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.
Review by Ellen Heaney.
The story of western populations becoming increasingly urbanized is not limited, it seems, to humans. Even some farm animals yearn for a life among the bright lights and skyscrapers of the city. Thus we have the story of four sheep who move from the country, decorate a condo and begin to indulge themselves in all that city life has to offer, from fine dining to the opera.
Finding a sybaritic lifestyle not fulfilling enough, they search the newspaper for activities with which to occupy their days. When work as landscape gardeners proves too tempting (Woolcott finds the tulips more than a little tasty), and membersheep in the lawn bowling club is denied them because their hooves make too many holes in the lawn, they are downcast.
A ray of sunshine comes in the form of a somewhat damaged poster advertising a singing competition which Waylon, Lambert, Woolcott and Eugene believe will provide them a great opportunity.
Eugene, Lambert, and Woolcott carefully read every word [of the poster]. At last Eugene began to smile. "But, of course!" he cried. "A baabaasheep quartet! There are four of us and we are all sheep. Everyone knows that sheep sing beautifully."
Woolcott was delighted. "Why didn't we think of it before?"
Lambert clapped his hooves. "We'll have a chance to meet other sheep in the city. We'll be sure to fit in."
The picture of four rotund be-suited sheep standing upright on the pavement among groups of men with candy-striped blazers and straw boaters is only one of the laugh-out-loud moments in this silly picture book. The quartet almost flees after their performance when they realize that they have not been competing against other sheep, but in the end they are awarded the trophy and "invited to tour the finest concert halls in the world."
There is a message here about accepting others for what they are, but the story is really about striving to find out what you are good at and then getting on with it.
Leslie Elizabeth Watts has produced a number of other books for young children including You Can't Rush a Cat and Princess Stinky-Toes and the Brave Frog Robert. Here she is both author and illustrator again. She has written the text without flourish, just a strong sense of narrative. Her bright illustrations of gentlemen in bow ties and ladies with marcelled hair put readers in the 1930's, and they are definitely an integral part of the telling of the tale.
Ellen Heaney is Head, Children's Services at the New Westminster Public Library in New Westminster, BC.
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