Amidst all the brouhaha about Catch A Falling Star and Skylab and things that fall from the sky, something else has happened.
A new picture book has landed! Some sheep have landed – with heavy thuds on the floor of a little boy’s bedroom.
Let Me Sleep, Sheep hit shelves on 1 March, the same day Catch A Falling Star was published and just after DUCK! was named a Notable book in the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards, at which point I suddenly realised I’ve written three books in a row about things unexpectedly falling from the sky-ish.
No, wait. Not written. Published. Because the truth is I wrote Let Me Sleep, Sheep a long time ago. A very long time ago. The story of this book begins in 2006 when I had the initial idea. I don’t know where this one came from. It’s just one of those quirky little things that appeared out of somewhere, and which I threw into my ‘random picture book ideas’ file alongside many many others.
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 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. And in March 2019, one of the very first reviews on Goodreads said this …
… and I laughed so hard I almost cried.