During the opening scene, in which Gus hands the teacher his report and a wrapped present, kindred spirits will suspect that there’s a story behind his extra-dazzling smile.
The protagonist lives on a farm with his parents, a younger brother, and 17 sheep. (Both humans and sheep are white.) His paper views the animals through his unique lens, starting with gender: “A girl sheep is a ewe. If you say, ‘Hey, Ewe,’ she won’t answer.” He describes trading his sibling for a lamb and trying to teach the flock how to skateboard. It is when he shepherds the lot into the house that chaos erupts. In combination with her preposterous situations, Birdsall’s deadpan narrative leaves plenty of room for Bliss to invent comedic scenes. Children will chuckle as the sheep wreak havoc: spaghetti-sauce tracks are traceable to the culprit sporting shades and underwear, a painting frames a bemused face, and sofa stuffing serves as dinner. The bucolic watercolor-and-ink compositions portray wooly creatures that are generally phlegmatic and brothers who enjoy comic books as much as they do their ovine companions. Text appears on old-school penmanship lines and in dialogue bubbles. To her credit (and despite losing a scarf to the cause), Ms. Smolinski seems to appreciate her student’s creativity and affection for his pets.
Fans will want to emulate the style and voice of this funny homework saga. (Picture book. 5-8)