Monday, September 28, 2009

Woolbur, A Free-Spirited Sheep

Written by Leslie Helakoski
Illustrated by Lee Harper
Recommended Ages: 4-8

I love picture books. I think it's sad that some kids leave picture books behind in their elementary years just because they CAN read a chapter book. As I've pointed out in previous posts, authors like Bill Peet and Tim Egan cover topics that preschoolers will enjoy on one level, and 4th and 5th graders on a totally different one. So I'm always on the lookout for a new picture book that will appeal to both preschoolers and the elementary crowd.

Enter Woolbur, a sheep with his own mind. The story begins when Maa tells Paa that Woolbur decided to run with the dogs, instead of standing still with the sheep. When Maa and Paa express their concern that those dogs will run circles around him. Woolbur replies, "I know, isn't it great!"

Then Woolbur has a little trouble in the shearing barn, when he decides not to be sheared like the other sheep. Once again, Maa and Paa tell him that it's springtime and that his wool is so long. And again Woolbur replies, "I know, isn't it great!"

The story continues with Woolbur doing things his own way when it comes time for the sheep to card their wool, spin it and weave it. In one of his bolder moves, he weaves his forelock in the loom. All the while, loving every minute of it. Finally Maa and Paa sit him down and tell him that he must follow the flock, because it's what sheep do. They tell him he has to shear, card, spin, dye and weave wool like everyone else.

So Woolbur thinks about this all night long, and comes up with a plan.

His solution is to teach all the other sheep to run with the dogs, to let their wool grow, to card their own wool, to spin crazy yarn, to experiment with color and to weave their own forelocks. Soon all of the other sheep are acting just like Woolbur. Although even as the other sheep follow him, he still manages to be one of a kind. Woolbur is a great book for kids who march to their own beat (and for those who tend to stay with the flock).

The illustrations in Woolbur are accessible, funny and sure to draw kids in. These sheep are not just ordinary sheep; they have personalities. Even the ones in the flock, who tend to stay in the background, have lots of detail. Maa and Paa are worrywarts and their expressions are priceless, as they rack their brains on how to deal with Woolbur. But it's Woolbur who is the star, and he has pzazz. He is an original with an optimistic go get 'em attitude. Kids will giggle as you read through all of his antics. There are a lot of little details that you catch on the second or third read. You see that Woolbur has "Go Dog Go," in his room, along with a copy of "Zen Knitting." Woolbur is a wonderful story about being a non-conformist and following your dreams.

BookNosher Tidbit: Woolbur has won the following awards:
  • 2008 Book Sense Hot Pick

  • Great Lakes Book Award finalist

  • Gift of Literacy Oregon Book Choice

Nominated for following state book awards:

  • Vermont

  • North Dakota

  • Nevada

  • Florida (Honor Book)

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

BookNosher Activities: After reading Woolbur, kids may be very interested in learning how to knit. There's a really great book called Kids Knitting: Projects for Kids of all Ages. It's illustrated and the projects are arranged in order of difficulty. Color photographs show both boys (!) and girls knitting. In fact, you could give a child a copy of Woolbur, Kids Knitting and some needles and yarn and you've got a great gift.


Mike said...

Looks like a great read.

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Lubna said...

You review books so well.

Erika Parker Price said...

Picture books make great read-alouds when you're trying to get the kids off to bed quickly.

One note on knitting too. We found some great kid-sized wooden knitting needles when my son wanted to give it a try. The shop was very nice at teaching him too since I am a bit knitting-challenged!

Robin Gaphni said...

I, too, am "knitting-challenged," and am grateful to our little knitting shop on the island that taught my daughter to knit when she was about 8. I only wish I had had a knitting book available at night when she got stuck!!