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Agnes the Sheep
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Gr 5-8-- What begins for Belinda and Joe as a simple school project of interviewing an older person to learn about their town's past becomes a wild and woolly sheep chase. The eccentric Mrs. Carpenter whom they choose is far from a sweet little old lady, and her large, nasty, holy terror of a sheep, Agnes, is misnamed as the ``lamb of God.'' Taylor, a New Zealander, has written a genuinely funny, fast-paced story of the students' attempts to save Agnes from becoming mutton or a rug when they inherit her at Mrs. Carpenter's death. The humor is found at many levels, from subtle irony, puns, and satire , to coincidence, exaggeration, and slapstick. Taylor pokes fun at teachers, education, priests, and the church in this zany and merry romp. While young readers will find the New Zealand setting and slang accessible, the book's uninspired title may not invite students to select this laugh-aloud story. And that's too bad. --Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME

In this story set in New Zealand, a school project pairs goody-goody Belinda and roughneck Joe in a research project about the elderly. Mrs. Carpenter, however, is not at all what their teacher had in mind--she's no sweet old lady reminiscing about frontier times, but a spitfire with a wickedly misbehaving sheep named Agnes. Joe and Belinda become friends with Mrs. Carpenter and are entrusted with Agnes when the woman passes away. With a liberal sprinkling of tongue-in-cheek humor, Taylor ( Paradise Lane ) transforms a fairly thin story into an appealing read that calls to mind the lighter moments of his compatriot Margaret Mahy. His observations about the human condition may pass over the heads of incautious readers, but the slapstick action and foreign flavor should make his novel a favorite with the middle-grade crowd. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)

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