review: Counting Ovejas
Counting Ovejas by Sarah Weeks. Illustrated by David Diaz. Atheneum, 2006 (978-0-689-86750-7) $17.99
A little boy who's trying to sleep finds himself counting sheep against his will when they start wandering in ever expanding numbers into his bedroom. "Una oveja blanca./One white sheep. Adios, oveja blanca!/Good-bye, white sheep!" says the boy, gesturing the first sheep out of his room. As the groups of sheep get bigger, the boy has to use increasingly strong measures to get them out: "Nueve ovejas azules/Nine blue sheep" are pushed with a bulldozer, and "Diez ovejas amarillas/Ten yellow sheep" are airlifted by the boy in a personal rotocopter. The tired boy thanks the sheep and falls asleep, only to be cozily surrounded by ten sheep who must have found their way back.
The text here seems very simple, but I really like how it's written: the repetition of phrases highlights the unique words for colors and numbers, and the Spanish and English texts flow into each other so smoothly and invitingly, it only makes sense to read both together. (Though you can choose to read just one, if you prefer.) Best of all, a phonetic pronunciation guide is given under each line, though unfortunately in Spanish only. The illustrations in acrylic and pencil are also attractive, with bright, glowing colors, lots of interesting implied textures (the sheep fur is made up of dozens of spirals), and splotchy-colored backgrounds that add a dreamy effect. The juxtaposition of the old-fashioned looking night garb of the boy and the striking modern colors gives a distinctive, unexpected look. (2-6)