Woolbur, by Leslie Helakoski

Woolbur, by Leslie HelakoskiWoolbur is a fun, charming book about a young sheep who likes to do everything in his own way. If your little one prefers running with the dogs to standing still with the herd, you may see your child’s free spirit reflected in Woolbur’s own. This is a great story for helping kids to see that being who you are, even if it’s very different from everybody else, is part of what makes life – and the world around us – a delightful place to be.

Harper’s colorful, expressive pictures wonderfully bring to life Woolbur’s fun, daring, individuality, and joy. The detailed drawings are at once sweet, funny, and clever. We always find ourselves giggling at Woolbur’s various antics, and the results of his unique way of thinking and approaching things. Woolbur is happy to be himself, and that message is carried well in both the text and the pictures.

The lovely illustrations also show that the illustrator knows some things about the fiber arts (many children’s book illustrations show incorrectly set up spinning wheels or looms, or other such things that you would only notice if you’re familiar with fiber arts yourself). My young fiber artist loves that Woolbur is creative in how he makes his fiber creations, just like my son.

As Woolbur approaches of the various endeavors that compose the fiber arts training he receives in school: shearing, carding, spinning, dying, and weaving, he has his own approach to each subject. His visions and outcomes are nothing like what is being taught, like what the other sheep produce, or like what his parents want him to produce (they want him to be like everyone else). Woolbur is spunky, creative, and happy to do things in his own way. When his parents voice their worries about his “trouble” in school – what they view as outlandish behavior, he responds to his distinctive outcomes positively with, “I know. Isn’t it great?” He’s happy and proud of his creations, and that they’re purposefully not like everyone else’s.

Unlike many children’s books that talk about being true to yourself, this book does not show Woolbur conforming and then learning it’s okay to be himself. Instead, it shows Woolbur as a strong character from the beginning. This book also carries an important message for parents. As parents, it’s easy to worry when our little ones seem so far outside of the range of “normal.” But when we watch Woolbur’s parents actively trying to promote conformity and thwart his independent spirit and self-expression (“You must follow the flock, dear. It is what we sheep do.”), we can see that Woolbur’s wise grandfather is right with his attempts to calm their fears by repeating, “Don’t worry.”  This gentle reminder that we don’t need to fret so much about our children and that they will turn out okay is a helpful one in a society that places high value on very specific forms of achievement and particular outcomes and behaviors.

In the end, Woolbur’s spirited individuality cannot be contained. Instead of changing to be like everyone else, he thinks outside of the flock (Ha!) and convinces the other sheep to act like him.

My boys love this book, and because it’s well written and illustrated as well as carrying an important lesson, I enjoy reading it to them. It would also make a great gift for any fiber artists in your life. Whether your child already marches to his own beat, or he needs some encouragement to know that you don’t need to be anybody but yourself, Woolbur is a great addition to your children’s book library. Woolbur shows that individuals do not all have to be the same in order to form a beautiful community, and that an appreciation of differences can enhance any group. In all, Woolbur is a wonderful celebration about being true to who you are, no matter what other people think. Isn’t it great?


You can buy a copy of Woolbur HERE or HERE.

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