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23 June 2010 FEEDING THE SHEEP by Leda Schubert and Andrea U'Ren, Farrar Straus and Giroux, March 2010, 28p., ISBN: 978-0-374-32296-0

"Want to knit you a sweater, want to write you a love letter"-- Joni Mitchell
I've been sitting here trying to think of something nice to say about sheep.  In comparison to my decades of raising Nubian goats, my brief encounters with sheep have been far less gratifying.  But I deeply treasure my collection of wool sweaters, and cherish the memories of several that are now gone that had been especially knitted for me many years ago by one of my oldest and dearest friends.
It is that friend who also exposed me to carding and spinning wheels and drop spindles.  I even once tried to shear a sheep for her.  (The emphasis is on the word "tried.") 
I certainly have an appreciation for all that goes into creating a sweater.
"One for Paul, one for Silas, One for to make my heart rejoice.
Can't you hear my lambs a' callin', Oh, good shepherd, feed my sheep."
-- Traditional hymn arranged by Jorma Kaukonen
And so I experience a somewhat bizarre sense of nostalgia and amusement in reading the lovely picture book  FEEDING THE SHEEP.
"'What are you doing?' the little girl asked."  So begins the text on nine of the story's scenes. 
On a family farm, and over the course of a year, a mom cares for a small flock of sheep; goes through all of the processes necessary for creating a sweater; and answers the little girl's questions about what Mom is doing.  The little girl has her own good measure of fun as she (literally) immerses herself in a pile of fleece, and in other sorts of parallel play: Mom cards the wool and the little girl cards the family dog; Mom spins the wheel, the little girl somersaults (and the dog chases his tail); Mom is elbow deep in dye and the little girl is elbow-deep in water-coloring.  By the end of the story, the little girl is taking initiative, happily participating in feeding the sheep.
There are three things that I particularly love about the visual details of FEEDING THE SHEEP. 
One: The family dog is very dog-like in his mischievousness and attentiveness. 
Two: The sheep are SO, SO sheep-like.  They alternately have expressions of dread; stubbornness; cluelessness; or are looking right out of the page at you, like you are an intruder.  Ah, I remember those expressions so well. 
Three: The real payoff of the story is on the back cover.  It is merely cute if you haven't read the book, but after you do, and you see the development of the little girl, that back cover is the punchline that motivated me to actually write fondly (most likely for the first and last time) about something having to do with sheep.  
Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/middle_school_lit/

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