09 May 2009

Ernie and Maud Book 3: The Greatest Sheep in History

by Frances Watts. Illustrated by Judy Watson

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

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Best friends and Superheroes Ernie and Maud have been working together for several months and are from the Baxter Branch of the Superheroes Society. Ernie’s new school project is on famous heroes in history. Maud is curious about any recording of heroic sheep, and is very disappointed when Ernie tells her that he hasn’t come across any in his research yet.

The two friends are overjoyed at being invited to attend the National Meeting of Superheroes. While the President of the National Headquarters is about to give her speech, Chicken George streaks past and steals the papers from her hands. It’s up to the Superheroes to catch the villain.
Maud’s mood is further dampened when she overhears a conversation mocking her because she is a barnyard animal. Later at a dinner gathering of Superhero friends, their topic of discussion is fear. All confess that there is something each of them fears, regardless of their Superhero status and a discussion takes place around this concern.

Maud’s mood is lifted when she learns that a sheep, a duck and a rooster were passengers in the first hot-air balloon in the late 1700s. Ernie’s hero, Daring Dynamo, arrives in a hot-air balloon. Chicken George strikes again and Maud is swept up in the balloon with a desperate Ernie hanging by the rope. Their rescue turns out better than they’d hoped.

There are many life lessons to be learned by younger readers from the behaviour and misbehaviour of the characters in this excellent series. Maud proves that heroism takes many forms and that everyone is capable of heroic and courageous acts. Instead of judging George, Maud shows that good people frequently do bad things for reasons unknown to others; that kindness is more courageous than retaliation, and that overcoming your fears also requires great courage.

This is recommended for primary school aged readers.

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