Children’s Book of the Week: Wool Gathering
Wool Gathering: A Sheep Family Reunion by Lisa Wheeler, pictures by Frank Ansley
Good grief, I’ve been completely neglectful of poetry books here, haven’t I? I think maybe it’s because — and this is a little hard for me to admit — I’m kind of all over the map on poetry. Some days I want to read aloud barely understandable poems for an hour, letting the words wash over us, blah blah blah, and some days (most, really) I won’t touch a poem that doesn’t rhyme and isn’t a snappy little ditty. And some days I think poems are a private little present that are only for me to read in my closet upstairs when I am pretending to fold laundry.
But! But! I am always in the mood for Wool Gathering. It’s got everything. Fun pictures, a variety of poetry structures, and, heaven help us, a PLOT, even. It’s a group of poems about a sheep family reunion (ok, if that alone doesn’t sell you on this, I don’t know what will), so there are poems in the beginning about the sheep arriving, and the general logistics of a sheep family reunion. And then the middle poems are about individual sheep (and these are where the best ones are, I think). The final poems are about everyone going home. There are plenty of sheep-related puns (the last poem ends “So long…farewool… good-baaa”) but somehow it’s not at all annoying or forced. There’s Cousin Lambert who is a secret superhero and has “steel wool,” and Woolverton who is kind of dumb and doesn’t realize that the love of his life is a cow. There’s Old Ramses, who is ancient but has an eye on the young lady sheep (this poem is a good example of what I like about this book, because Old Ramses checking out the hot young sheepies is done in such a way that I’m not sure the kids will really get it, or maybe they will, but it’s kind of subtle and not clear what’s going on) (which is how Real Adult Poetry is anyway, so maybe it’s a good intro).
The illustrations are fun and a perfect companion to the poems, and you and your kids will quickly memorize a bunch of these and spout lines at random (Henry particularly likes the one where the sheep can’t play baseball because they ate the infield). My favorite one is “Felice” which is probably un-P.C. but it’s awfully fun to read: “Round Felice/has heavy fleece./Her wool is big and puffy./Says Felice,/’I’m not obese!/Don’t call me fat. I’m fluffy!'”
And I promise to recommend more of our favorite poetry books in the future.