Spring is certainly somewhere out there, I’m seeing bunnies and lambs and yellow chicks in stores everywhere….especially the soft, squishy, yummy packages of Peeps…..Ahhh….. Er, uh, anyway, I chose a fun picture book about sheep and one little lamb in particular who does not follow the flock.
Author: Leslie Helakoski
Illustrator: Lee Harper
Publisher: Harper Collins 2008
Audience Age: 3-8
Themes/Topics: Independence, Sheep, Creativity
Opening Sentences: “Woolbur had a little trouble with the herd today,” said Maa. ‘What happened?” asked Paa. “I don’t want to stand still with the sheep,” said Woolbur, “I ran with the dogs instead.”
Synopsis: Woolbur is a young lamb who is not just one of the flock. He is his own shepherd, finding unconventional ways to do traditional things in a fun way. This worries his parents, Maa and Paa. It’s all a happy ending when Woolbur’s creativity catches on.
Why I like it: The story is fun and the artwork is delightful and captures the free thinking spirit of Woolbur. While I feel it is important to teach traditions and conventional ways, it is just as important to encourage ingenuity and creativity. Woolbur, in his enthusiasm, does just that. Rather than stand still with the flock, he wants to run with the sheep dogs. Or instead of being sheared, he wants to keep his warm, fuzzy wool. “But your wool is so long!” said Maa. “I know, ” said Woolbur, “isn’t it great?” And in my favorite picture – instead of carding the wool separately he cards himself into an enormous fluff ball. He also dyes himself blue to his mother’s horror. An then there’s the illustration of him after he weaves his own wool while it’s still on him (think Marie Antoinette hairstyle). Every time he tries something new his parents response is, “but [spinning] is not supposed to be fun!” To which Woolbur responds, “I know! Isn’t it great?” Although Maa and Paa worry about Woolbur’s nonconformity and pull their wool each night, Grandpaa (who looks to be old and wise while he does yoga) assures them they should not worry.
Maa and Paa finally tell Woolbur he MUST do what the flock does, whether it’s spinning, or dyeing, or carding or, shearing. This keeps Woolbur awake all night until he comes up with another creative solution.
Activities/Resources: Lee Harper, the artist for this book has some delightful coloring pages from Woolbur and even Woolbur masks.
Art is always a wonderful way to try new things. Doodling can always generate new ideas. Try this lesson plan
Also retelling a familiar fairy tale promotes creative thinking. For instance in “The 3 Little Pigs” what if the wolf was a nice guy? Or what if the pigs got jobs to build new houses? Ask your child ways one of the character(s) could change something with a different reaction. In Cinderella, what if the step-sisters were nice. Would they get to move into the castle? What if Curious George wasn’t so curious? What is another way he might have met the man in the yellow hat?
Availability: Major bookstores. (If you go to Amazon, you can see some of the book pages and art work.)
(Susanna Leonard Hill is the originator of PPBF and you can find all the other PPB recommendations and links on her blog.)
Think Spring and enjoy the book!
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