Pete the Sheep by Jackie French

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Pete the Sheep by Jackie French

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: A humorous and entertaining book about sticking up for your friends (and a sideline in funny hair-dos), it's not intense or magical enough to warrant full 5 stars, but good enough for a recommendation for 3 to 6 year olds, even the ones hateful of hairdressers.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: January 2007
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0007228089

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Jackie French and Bruce Wheathley are the creators of the lovely (and award winning) Diary of a Wombat. Pete the Sheep is another effect of their joint enterprise and it's also good one.

Shaun is a brilliant sheepshearer with a real passion for his work. Instead of the usual sheep-dog, Shaun has Pete: a sheep-sheep, an intelligent, charming and extremely polite gentleman. The other shearers are not too keen on Pete and when the sheep refuse to follow their sheep-dogs and wait for Pete's leadership, Shaun and Pete have to leave the shearers' shed. And what is to become of our duo now that there is nothing to shear for Shaun - apart from Pete?

Pete the Sheep is an entertaining picture book with great illustrations, well produced and with strong enough story to keep the attention of children, and lots of humour to entertain both the little ones and the grown ups for many readings.

The story is an old one of daring to be different (and the inevitable subsequent triumph); and here in the even more noble variety of standing up for a friend rather than just yourself.

Shaun is a perfectly normal, though a rather sweet natured shearer, and he could have got rid of Pete and got a 'proper sheep-dog': but he sticks with Pete and it all works out a treat, with the bullies seeing the error of their ways and getting converted eventually.

The feel of the book is very light: it doesn't have a fairy-tale emotional power, there are no real baddies and no real danger. The other shearers are pictured as gormless blunderers rather than truly abusive nasties and Shaun despairs of having nothing to shear rather than nothing to eat after getting the sack.

The illustrations work really well and complement the text in perfect keeping with the spirit of the story: they are also light, with unmistakably Australian touches (Shaun especially looks the archetypal image of a chilled-out, sunny Aussie) and the final tableau of all kinds of animals with fancy hairstyles is truly glorious.

The attraction of Pete the Sheep for parents is undoubtedly in the humour: verbal, visual and situational. The conservative shearers are called Ratso, Big Bob and Bungo; Pete's baaa-baaas are translated as inanely polite chatter of a city hairdresser, all kinds of animals get really cool hairstyles and at the end even the monosyllabic Bungo learns to speak to the customers.

I suspect parents will like Pete the Sheep[ more than children, as some of the humour will go over the heads of the little ones, but the children will certainly have a laugh at the hairstyles and the facial expressions and the facial expressions of Ratso, Big Bob, Bungo and their dogs.

There is a very slight whiff of "because you are worth it" and all those dreadful ideas about importance of appearance for personal expression (appropriate in teenagers but peddled by lifestyle media to all of us) about Pete the Sheep but as the story concerns funny Aussie farm and zoo animals, even I found it perfectly acceptable.

Pete the Sheep does what it does rather well: not intense or magical enough to warrant full 5 stars, but good enough for a recommendation for 3 to 6 year olds of both sexes and their parents, even those as hateful of hairdressers as this reviewer, who recently chopped her own hair to avoid a visit to one.

My thanks to the publishers for sending this book.

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Jill said:

I can't tell you how much I hate hairdressers. They intimidate me. I dye my own hair and cut my own fringe and brave it into a saloon or slalom or whatever it is the cursed places are called about once a year.

Magda said:

Oooh! After my heart, then!

I actually prefer going to the dentist.

I used to go to the best (and the most expensive) hairdresser in Gdansk when I lived in Poland and had a high-fluffing job, and his cuts were fantastic, truly, but I still shuddered before very appolintemnt. Long live work from home slobbery!