Committee Picks: Sheep Won’t Sleep (Review)

Posted by on Apr 2, 2018 in Featured Titles, News | No Comments

The following review of 2018 Mathical Award Winner Sheep Won’t Sleep: Counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s by author Judy Cox was submitted by Mathical Selection Committee member J. Michael Shaughnessy.

J. Michael Shaughnessy

In this clever “yarn” things get out of hand when a sleepy Clarissa’s attempts to count sheep morph into skip counting other wooly beasts. Normally Clarissa can drift off peacefully after doing some knitting, but this night when her knitting fails her she begins to count sheep by 1s, only to discover that they are appearing all over her room! The sheep inform her that she is not trying hard enough by 1s, and suggest she count alpacas by 2s. When this doesn’t work, the alpacas encourage Clarissa to count llamas by 5s. And so it goes, as a veritable zoo of hairy multiples—2s, 5s, and 10s of alpacas, llamas, and yaks—spin their way into Clarissa’s room creating chaos reminiscent of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Cox’s story will be especially engaging for children in the 5 -9 age range who are learning to count by multiples—they could be encouraged by adult readers to imagine what Clarissa’s room will look like after each successive counting of the animals. Cuneo’s illustrations dazzle the pages, filled with colorful furry coated, often quilted, beasts, that eventually overwhelm Clarissa’s room. And just how many are there now altogether? By the way, the room is beginning to bulge—not to mention smell—just awful crammed with all those hooved critters who are used to roaming in fields.

Only a clever mathematical application of a much-needed inverse operation by Clarissa can unravel her beasty multiplication dream. Teaser: Clarissa awakens the next morning beneath a beautiful new colorful afghan quilt. How did she manage to clean up her room? You’ll have to read the story yourself to able to a-count for her solution. An excellent book for children to read with adults, or separately by themselves, Sheep Won’t Sleep can set the stage for further multiples investigations. What animals, and what multiples, would you like to have visit your room? And, how will you make them disappear?

Sheep Won’t Sleep: Counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s
By Judy Cox, illustrated by Nina Cuneo
Holiday House, 2017
2018 Mathical Award Winner, Grades K-2


Mathical Selection Committee member J. Michael Shaughnessy is professor emeritus in Mathematics and Statistics at Portland State University, and past president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).