Local author Jennifer Somervell, who is behind the award-winning Tales From the Farm series, launched her sixth book in Oxford on Saturday.
More than 80 people attended, including Peter Carrell, the Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, who described A Baa-rilliant Adventure, as “a brilliant re-telling of the famous story of the shepherds’ visit to Bethlehem”.
The book is not a tale from the farm like Jennifer’s other books, but a tale from Israel, inspired by a visit by Jennifer to that nation in 2011.
“I imagined the angel appearing to shepherds and their sheep in the fields outside Bethlehem, and I thought, the sheep? Wouldn’t they follow their shepherds?'”
A dramatic adventure results, as three sheep, Rumbly, Tumbly and Woolly, stumble after their shepherds in the dark.
In keeping with the nativity-sheep theme of the book, the most popular guest for the 30 or so children at the launch was Sooty, a South Suffolk crossbred lamb.
Children were entertained by sheep-making, star-decorating, colouring-in activities, and face-painting animals from the book.
Jennifer waited seven years for the right illustrator.
“I needed an illustrator who could capture emotion and facial expression, including in sheep.”
She met her Southland illustrator, Zerika van Jaarsveld, in early 2019 at the Oxford Baptist Church.
“From the moment I saw her first pictures, I knew the book would be special. They were outstanding.”
Though the story is imaginative, it is set in an accurate historic setting.
“I didn’t want white faces and Romney lambs. We needed the right breed of sheep, clothing and footwear that could have been worn 2000 years ago by Middle Eastern shepherds.
Help was sought from a scholar in Israel to clarify pictures.
Jennifer’s husband, Ken Fletcher, researched the non-fiction end section, explaining the real nativity history, and the close relationship between sheep and shepherds of the time.
“There are layers in this book. On one level it can be read as a dramatic story of rescue. But it also speaks of the good shepherd and what that means.”