cover image The Sheep, the Rooster, and the Duck

The Sheep, the Rooster, and the Duck

Matt Phelan. Greenwillow, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-291100-1

Utilizing a third-person narrative and paneled comics sequences, Phelan (Sweater Weather) offers a delightful historical re-imagining, centering animals as spies. Two years after the launch of the first hot air balloon, in 1783 Versailles, diplomat Benjamin Franklin resides in France, working on inventions inspired by that launch: “I had to imagine more destructive uses. A habit developed from years of revolution.” He doesn’t know that a menagerie of well-meaning spies, all passengers on that initial balloon, are studying his drawings, worrying about their possible repercussions. When Franklin’s drawings fall into the hands of evil Count Cagliostro, it’s up to the spies—sheep Bernadette, duck Jean-Luc, and masked rooster Pierre (aka Bête Noire, the Scourge of the Underworld)—as well as their compatriot Sophie and Franklin’s trusty 10-year-old servant Emile, to save the day. Featuring a cued-white cast with cameos of notable historic figures (e.g., “insipid” Marie Antoinette) as well as occasional fun facts (e.g., how the word mesmerize came to be), this amusing, fast-paced tale of land, sky, and spies will easily draw in reluctant readers. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Mar.)