Arnold the sheep desperately wants to be part of the story…with a few modifications.
The narrator begins with a proper “Once upon a time,” but after that, the tale quickly derails. Instead of a little girl in a red hood, a big fluffy sheep suddenly fills the page (as Arnold declares, “A Heidschnucke sheep to be exact”). The narrator is confused. Arnold explains that sheep are always relegated to the backgrounds of stories. (Case in point, “Little Bo Peep”). He wants to be the star this time. “Oh, all right, then,” the narrator relents. But Arnold has some other suggestions as well. Could the story’s setting not be in a dark wood? It’s a little creepy. Plus, Arnold knows some fantastic friends to fill a few of the roles. Einer the muskrat would make a great wolf. And Frankie the warthog would be the perfect granny. Overzealous Arnold takes the story into his own cloven hooves, providing a wacky interpretation of the classic tale. Atkinson’s interrupting speech bubbles, stately frames, faux corner page turns, and large pencil with erasure marks pack in every trope. Like so many of its ilk, the story takes a back seat to concept, resulting in what feels like 40 pages of setup.
Both chortle-inducing and whiny at turns, this proves there’s nothing new under the metafictive sun. (Picture book. 4-7)