A while back, Hubs was out of town to ComicCon and Sprout was having trouble getting to sleep. It was the first time he'd been without Daddy at bedtime, plus we'd had a very full day of activities, and I think he was just finding it difficult to wind down. I was snuggling him, trying to get him to key down, but nothing was working. "I can't go to sleep, Mommy," he said, and in my half-asleep state I suggested, "Why don't you count sheep?"
Thus ensued a huge round of questioning. Suddenly Sprout was wide awake and buzzing with queries. Who were these sheep, and where did they come from, and why were we counting them, and where would they go after we counted them, and were they sheep from a farm or what. . . you get the idea. Yeesh, make one off-the-cuff suggestion and there goes any hope of shut-eye!
But it got me thinking about the phrase and how honestly bizarre it really is. So when I came across today's pick, I knew I had to bring it home for Sprout pronto. Can't Sleep Without Sheep by Susanna Leonard Hill is the perfect blend of silly and sweet, a great selection for bedtime or anytime a dose of fun is in order. When Ava can't fall asleep, her mom does exactly what I did to Sprout, suggests Ava count sheep. But the sheep in Ava's room are totally worn out, and they want a night off. So they offer to find a replacement animal for our heroine to count. Unfortunately, nothing's quite right - the horses are too graceful, the pigs too slow, the cows too clumsy. Then even non-barnyard animals are getting into the action, as penguins, hippos and even buffalo take a crack at jumping over Ava's fence. It's all kind of a disaster, but a really hilarious one!
Mike Wohnoutka did the illustrations for this little beauty, and they are a whole lot of fun. The night sky is populated with twinkling stars and wispy clouds, the perfect setting for all of this animal craziness. Sprout likes the chickens - cross-eyed and chubby, trying to cram themselves between the boards of the fence. And the sheep are everywhere in the background, trying mightily to orchestrate a suitable replacement for themselves so they can have one -- just one! -- night to themselves. (Spoiler alert: it never quite materializes.)
Hill's story is one tailor-made for preschoolers who love a good bit of zaniness at storytime or on the way to dreamland. And believe me when I tell you that after this one, you'll never count sheep in quite the same way!
Can't Sleep Without Sheep by Susanna Leonard Hill, published by Walker & Company
Sample: "The pigs were not in any hurry. 'One pig over the fence," said Ava. Then she had to wait while the others stopped to snack. 'Pigs are too slow,' decided the sheep."