Bently, Peter. Illus. Mei Matsuoka. The Great Sheep Shenanigans. Minneapolis: Andersen Press USA, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-7613-8990-3 Price: $16.95. Ages: 4-9 (Everyone)
You know that story you want to tell? When you just want to share something silly with someone else? Well, that's what I found myself wishing as I turned the pages of The Great Sheep Shenanigans. I had planned just a quick glance at the book before I rushed home, but after I met Lou Pine and Rambo the Ram there was no putting it down. In fact, I was so drawn in by the story that I kept reading it as I stumbled across campus. Whenever I passed someone along the way, I wanted to pull them aside and say, "Look, you've got to check this out!" When I got home I found that my roommate was having a tough time. What the heck? Why not? "Here, read this—it'll make you feel better," I said and handed her The Great Sheep Shenanigans. Before she knew it, we were both laughing.
The story centers around a wolf, Lou Pine, who has decided he's going to do whatever it takes to eat some sheep. This mission, however, becomes far more difficult—and dangerous—than Lou ever planned. After meeting Rambo the Ram, who tells him to scram, he's thwarted at every turn. While each fiasco Lou finds himself facing is funny, we probably laughed hardest at Lou Pine's unfortunate encounter with Ma Watson who is "the best shot in town." Then again, there's also something to be said for a wolf clothed in pink cotton candy or the rest of the assorted disguises Lou Pine tries out. Does the story end the way it should? Well, that all depends on your perspective, and I'll let you decide that.
I cannot stress the superb collaboration between Peter Bently and Mei Matsuoka. Yes, the text and illustrations are solid on their own. In fact, my father enjoyed the cotton-candy scene I read to him over the phone (yes, as you can tell, I really like this book). At the same time, the frames documenting Lou Pine's cotton-candy catastrophe are quite entertaining—even if there was no text. Bring both together, though? Now that is a thing of beauty. As much as I describe this, or you try to imagine, there's nothing like almost singing along to the playful end-rhyme or looking at the actual page where Lou Pine crashes into Rambo the Ram. This is a book that you will enjoy reading to your child as well as a book that your child will enjoy reading to herself or himself.
Reviewed by Stephanie Ashley