My sister had, for many years, a farm in the idyllic greenness of Kentucky, where she raised sheep. Visiting her in springtime meant enjoying lambing season –hearing the low, urgent bleating of the ewes; watching those wobbly, spindly lambs with their tails twiddling furiously as they suckled. Marvelous.
Lambs are all of a piece with springtime, as well as central to the Passover and Easter stories. These two sweet stories from the UK will please you anytime, but I thought they were especially suited for this season.
Smudge, the Little Lost Lamb, by James Herriot, illustrated by Ruth Brown published in 1991 by St. Martin’s Press
The sweeping vistas of Yorkshire with its green fields stretching out in undulating folds, and ancient stone walls meandering endlessly, is the setting for this story.
Smudge is one of a pair of twin lambs born onto young Harry Cobb’s father’s farm and given to Harry by his father.
Smudge is a restless lamb, determined to squirm out of the fences meant to protect him, as so many sheep are prone to do. Not so smart, sheep.
When Smudge succeeds, his triumph is short-lived. Hunger, a fierce dog, a massive bull, speedy cars, and a sudden Yorkshire snowstorm frighten, harrass and endanger the forlorn lamb. Is there any chance for Smudge to survive and return to his mama?
James Herriot, the famous Yorkshire vet and storyteller, wrote a number of books especially for children. They are rich, authentic stories, and Herriot does not talk down to his audience whatsoever. In fact, for a picture book, they are fairly lengthy stories, best for ages 5 or older. We have loved sharing them with our children over the years. Ruth Brown’s gorgeous paintings capture the landscapes, bulky animals, old-fashioned farms and schoolhouses of the era, in rich, warm splendor.
I think the individual books are out of print, but the James Herriot Treasury for Children is in print and contains all of them.
Little Baa, written and illustrated by Kim Lewis published in the U.S. in 2001 by Candlewick Press
Little Baa loves cavorting and frisking about the field with his fellow lambs. Even when the rest grow tired and rejoin the flock, Little Baa keeps running.
Eventually he settles down for a nap, but he’s so far off, that when his Ma begins to call for him, she gets no reply.
A mother ewe knows her lamb’s voice and smell. Ma searches and sniffs and bleats and bleats, but to no avail. It’s up to the shepherd and his trusty border collie, Floss, to find Little Baa and reunite him with Ma.
Kim Lewis has written a number of really lovely stories set in rural England where she lives on a sheep farm. I like them because they are true-to-life, and sweet, and full of the quiet pleasures of the outdoors. This one captures the behavior of sheep and the life of a shepherd beautifully.
Her colored pencil artwork glows with the soft light and pastoral scenes of the wild hills and dales of England’s sheep country, as well as the gamboling lambs and curling-horned Swaledale sheep. It’s an enchanting read for ages 2 and up.