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Thursday, September 8, 2016

My Favorite Pets: By Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski's Class, words by Jeanne Birdsall and pictures by Harry Bliss. Alfred A. Knopf, Random House. 2016. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"My favorite pet is sheep.
We have seventeen in our
yard. Seventeen sheep are
still sheep, not sheeps.
A boy sheep is a ram.
He has horns.
The horns do not come off.
A girl sheep is a ewe. If you
say, "Hey, Ewe," she won't
answer. Even if you shout

A 'sheepish' grin on his face, Gus arrives at school with report n hand, and a gift for Ms. Smolinski.
She seems unimpressed. Then, we all get to read his report in the pages that follow. Gus has a great love for sheep, and fills the report's pages with pertinent (and humorous) observations.

"You're too big to ride on sheep, but
your little brother isn't. He will cry,
and your father will say,

"What were you thinking, Gus?"

The text is placed on lined paper, using his own script to present what he knows about the sheep at his family's farm. It adds real appeal to the text, and gives readers the sense that we are reading exactly what he has written for his teacher. The humor is wry, and Harry Bliss manages to make it more so with his hilarious interpretations of the printed text. All of Gus's various escapades in trying to deal with his unruly pets are evident in the wonderful spreads drawn in black ink and watercolor. Kids will want to return to them again and again, taking note of the many details included, the expressions and the silliness. Older readers will be quick to note the newspaper headlines and the book titles that are shared. A Gus-sponsored farmhouse tour for the sheep ends in disaster and a warning for Gus, who has gone too far this time. Or, has he?

But, the report is done, handed in and graded. Gus couldn't be happier!

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