Written by Meg McKinlay
Illustrated by Leila Rudge
Walker Books Australia, March 2019
When Amos starts counting sheep, there’s one thing he doesn’t quite count on … How’s he supposed to sleep when the sheep land – THUD! THUD! – in his bedroom? This zany tale of bedtime shenanigans is the new picture book from the award-winning duo behind No Bears and Once Upon A Small Rhinoceros.
A laugh-out-loud read-aloud about a couple of crafty sheep who put a child through his paces. Perfect for children – and parents! – with a great sense of humour and love of the ridiculous.
What Readers Are Saying:
Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge are an ideal pairing … A whimsical picture book perfect for children aged from four through to primary-school age, this book puts the ‘baa’ into bedtime.”
– Michael Earp, Books+Publishing
“The illustrations swaddle every page in beautiful soft colour. The entire effect is a funny riot of a tale that also feels like a lullaby. Let me sleep, sheep feels like a soft wooly cuddle, perfect for naptime, bedtime or anytime you want to giggle, snuggle and snooze.”
– Angela Brown, Reading Time
“Dear Lord. Not another counting sheep book!”
– some guy
“Read to Us!” Story Time Kit (Classroom/library resources from Walker Books)
Behind the Story
Creatively, there’s nothing behind this story but randomness and whimsy. It’s just one of those funny little things that came to me from somewhere, and which I threw into my ‘random picture book ideas’ file alongside many many others.
Here are the initial thoughts I put down. You can see that from the very beginning, I’m playing around with voice, and that notion of the sheep as sort of dry and quirky and perhaps a bit haughty is already in there.
You can also see that despite not yet having a shape for the story itself, I’m already tossing out possibilities for the ending. It’s quite common for me to work backwards like this, having a sense of a satisfying ending and the task then being to craft a story that heads in that direction.
If you read the book, you’ll see a fairly clear through-line from this beginning to the finished story.
The path to publication, however, was much more complicated.
I wrote this story in 2006. I’d written about twelve picture books at that point, most of them pretty awful and none of them published. But this one was better, I thought. And moreover, my first novel, Annabel, Again, had just been accepted for publication. By the time I had a submittable draft of Let Me Sleep, Sheep!, it was December 2006 and I was just three months away from being an actual real published author.
Then I stumbled across a book called The 108th Sheep, which was launching on exactly the same day as my debut novel, with a premise alarmingly similar to Let Me Sleep, Sheep! There was no way I could submit mine now, I thought. I told no one about it, tucked it away in the metaphorical bottom drawer.
A year later, when I saw a book called The Eleventh Sheep come out, I thought, hmm, maybe there’s room for more materialising sheep books after all and pulled the manuscript again to tweak it for submission. When the following month, I saw a review of It’s Time To Sleep, You Crazy Sheep, I put my head down very firmly on the desk. I’d really missed the boat this time. Surely we’d reached critical mass for “materialising sheep” books in the picture book market, at least for now. Maybe if I waited a few more years?
I waited a few more years. I published a few more books, even some picture books. I had more credibility now! I had a publisher! Some other publishers knew my name!
I sent it off. I got rejections. It was fun but too difficult to illustrate. The problem, you see, was that all the action was taking place in one location.
But but but what about all those other counting sheep books? I wondered. I wanted to say. I did not say. I tucked it back in the metaphorical drawer, the third one down this time, where all the junk lives. I got on with other ideas, other books, other things.
And then, in late 2016, I signed with an agent. And I didn’t have anything new to send her so I went back to the Drawers of Rejection, to see if there was anything salvageable. The sheep made me laugh. I thought hey, I reckon this is actually okay. I did a quick google for new counting sheep books. I couldn’t find any. Clearly, this was my moment. I sent it off.
Three weeks later, I was offered a contract. Shortly after, the glorious Leila Rudge went to work, effortlessly breezing past the ‘single location’ problem. And in June 2018, approximately five days after we sent Let Me Sleep, Sheep! to the printer, a book called Go To Sleep, Sheep! was published and I DID NOT CARE AT ALL.