03 April 2009

The Middle Sheep

by Frances Watts
Illustrated by Judy Watson

ABC Books. Australian/Young Reader. Paperback rrp $12.95

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis Freelance Writer and Reviewer

Ernie and Maud are relatively new Superheroes, being trained at the Superheroes Society after winning a contest. Ernie is an only child and Maud is the middle sheep of a family of three, and is Ernie’s sidekick. Now known as Extraordinary Ernie and Marvellous Maud, they patrol their town on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, and all day Saturday. Resourceful and clever, they save, rescue or help anyone in distress or need. They are part of the Baxter Branch and are guided and mentored by the four older Branch members.

Being the one in the middle, Maud is frequently neglected and is at times invisible between her siblings. She revolts after her younger sister, Mavis, borrows her Superhero cape for her dress-ups. Her character changes to resentful and angry, alternating between spiteful and vindictive. She wants to be noticed. So she goes in search of other middle animals with the objective of finding her own sidekick, in an attempt to add validity to her own existence.

Maud’s sidekick try-outs are unsuccessful. None of the countless animals she interviews turn out to have the required characteristics she expects of a sidekick. While totally absorbed in her middle equality quest, she neglects Ernie. It’s when Maud experiences a series of mishaps which have catastrophic results that she reassesses her bad behaviour. She acknowledges that she has the perfect friendship with Ernie; that she is valued and worthwhile, and that it’s their mutual trust and teamwork that gives her a sense of value and importance as an individual.

This book is the second of a series. The first is Extraordinary Ernie and Marvellous Maud which introduces the Superheroes and their transformation, and coming soon is The Greatest Sheep in History. Highly readable, it teaches children about trust, the value of good friendships and the advantages of sharing. Through the personification of the animals ad the delightful and entertaining illustrations, it reflects and acknowledges children’s natural feelings, and suggests how negative thoughts and imaginings can be overcome and alleviated.


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