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Top 100 Picture Books #97: Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek

#97 Where Is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek (2004)
20 points

It was #96 at the last poll.  This year it’s sunk a single digit to #97.  Funny how some books keep their relative slots, isn’t it?  Funnier still that the last time I conducted this poll I wasn’t as intimately connected to this book as I am now.  Years ago when I was in graduate school getting my Masters in Library and Information Science (cause that’s how I roll) I took a class in children’s and YA programming in libraries.  For our storytelling section, two women came in and proselytized to us the word of Mem Fox.  At least that is how I remember it.  If there are evangelical Mem Fox fans in the world, these two women were definitely members.  Strangely enough, the only Mem Fox book I have ever reviewed is her 2004 winner Where Is the Green Sheep?  You can find the review on Amazon if you’ve half a mind to, and I guess the way I decided to best describe it was as “a surprisingly charming and winning little book that’s certain to earn the undivided love and attention of ankle biters worldwide.”

To steal a description from my review: “Using remarkably simple words, the book follows various sheep throughout their day. We see sheep of many colors and sheep taking baths. We have sheep up and we have sheep down. There are band sheep, wind sheep, near and far sheep. Just about any kind of sheep you can think of, this book’s got `em. Still, one question keeps popping up throughout the pages. Where is the green sheep? By the end, we discover the mysterious green sheep’s location and exactly what it is doing. It’s an oddly satisfying way to end the tale and so we do.”

Of course now I have a kid of my own.  We were given a board book version of this when the offspring was born and darned if I haven’t fallen even more in love with the book now than I had before.  First off, it keeps her attention without resorting to tactile elements or the photographs of babies’ faces.  Second, Judy Horacek is a certifiable genius.  Or maybe she’s just certifiable.  The more you look at the art in this story the weirder it becomes.  Am I the only one who has ever noticed the sheep wearing the welder’s mask and carrying a bouquet of flowers at the end?  Is that the Flashdance sheep?  I pray tis so.

Said Publishers Weekly of the title, “Parents intrigued by Fox’s ideas about early literacy (as expounded in Reading Magic, for example) will find this book a useful vehicle for putting her suggestions into practice.”

School Library Journal called it, “A welcome addition to the year’s flock of easy-readers.”

Booklist agreed with, “Laughs and interactive play will ensue among readers and listeners, alone or in groups.”

Horn Book came up with, “Much like Byron Barton’s Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs (rev. 5/89), this bedtime story is as satisfying as a goodnight kiss.”

And even Kirkus liked it with a, “Horacek’s clear, matching watercolor-and-pen cartoon-style drawings flawlessly render each ewe’s role, providing little ones a successful reading experience and ultimately finding the green sheep’s hiding place. Ideally easy and well-designed.”

  • If you skim to the bottom of this post you’ll see what has to be the world’s cutest first birthday party.  Three words: Green sheep cupcake.
  • Actually, green sheep first birthdays are fairly common.  As you can see here and here and here.  And frankly speaking this one is just insane.
  • A stage production?  I want to go to there.

And finally, the story behind the book.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I like this very much, and have read it aloud many times. One of my children’s literature professors was a Mem Fox evangelist as well.

  2. I saw her speak last week, and it’s easy to understand how people become Mem Fox evangelists. She led a crowd of librarians in a group recital of Koala Lou after telling us the story herself. To borrow her word, she’s got zest.

  3. Francesca says:

    I and the little ones adore this book – and as an Australian abroad my favourite sheep is the one with the mask and flowers – it’s a Ned Kelly sheep ( )!

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Is it really? I’m not sure what that means, but you may have come up with an answer to a mystery that’s been dogging me. Thanks!

  4. Genevieve says:

    Looks like that’s it!
    “Some of the sheep that were rejected ended up on the hillside of sheep near the end of the book (along with others that weren’t considered, like the Ned Kelly sheep and the Carmen Miranda sheep).”

  5. Genevieve says:

    From that Wiki entry on Ned Kelly: “The gang’s armour was made of iron a quarter of an inch thick, and consisted of a long breast-plate, shoulder-plates, back-guard, and helmet. The helmet resembled a nail can without a crown, and included a long slit for the eyes.”

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      This is without a doubt my favorite comment discussion in this poll. Bar none.

  6. Some books are just fun to read to our daughter, and this is one of them. Goldie Locks has Chicken Pox is a strong second.