The sheep, the rooster, and the duck

Matt Phelan

Book - 2022

In 1783 France, ten-year-old Emile works as Benjamin Franklin's caretaker, but after he finds himself in the middle of a sinister plot, he helps France's undercover guardians, a sheep, a rooster and a duck save the world.

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Animal fiction
Superhero fiction
Action and adventure fiction
Historical fiction
Humorous fiction
New York, NY : Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers [2022]
Main Author
Matt Phelan (author)
First edition
Physical Description
221 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Ages 8-12.
Grades 4-6.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Ten-year-old Emile lives a staid but satisfying life as a house servant in -eighteenth-century France, looking after a visiting Benjamin Franklin. Franklin keeps a treasured notebook in his study of in-progress inventions, and when Emile catches a mouse seemingly spying on his employer (clutching a tiny notebook and pencil in his paws), the boy follows the rodent to the secret lair of France's most revered undercover guardians. To his astonishment, the accomplished secret agents are Jean-Luc, a duck of tactical genius; Bernadette, an exceptionally inventive sheep; and Pierre, a swashbuckling masked rooster. A gallant (human) aeronaut, Sophie, rounds out the remarkable team, and Emile is filled in on a nefarious scheme to swipe Franklin's ideas and transform them into weapons. It's up to the avant-garde assembly to foil the plot and save the world! The whole enterprise is incredibly creative and equally silly, mixing historical figures and locations with offbeat humor and adventure. There are outrageous inventions, whimsical secret societies, and dastardly villains, along with miniature swords for masked roosters and cheese-shaped hot-air balloons for mice on the run. The cheery, chatty text is accessible and mixes in illustrated action sequences to keep any reader absorbed (final art not seen). A little bit of history, a touch of mystery, and heaps of fun.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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.)

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 3--7--This fun piece of historical fiction from acclaimed author and artist Phelan follows the story of hardworking Emile, caretaker of ambassador Benjamin Franklin's château in Paris, as he joins forces with the truly legendary sheep, rooster, and duck known for their involvement in the first hot air balloon flight of 1783, pioneered by the infamous Montgolfier brothers in Versailles. Readers will adventure with the characters through sinister plots and awkward and humorous situations as they work to outsmart the villains trying to steal Benjamin Franklin's drawings and inventions. Together, they devise a plan to thwart the enemies and save the world by keeping Franklin's precious inventions from landing in the wrong hands. The adventure is filled with the fun and whimsy of covert operations, secret societies, a secret spy headquarters on Marie Antoinette's playground, and secret night gliders (bat-like flying robots). This extraordinary group of animal spies is brought to life through witty dialogue, and the graphic novel--type illustrations are a huge part of the storytelling. Emile emerges as a brave character and steps far outside of his comfort zone when working with the animals. It is a story of friendship and bravery, and a celebration of history. VERDICT A fun, fast-paced adventure with tons of historical references and witty humor. Great for all readers and as a classroom read-aloud.--Christina Pesiri

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Farm animals and French children unite to save the fledgling United States from a scheming mastermind in this airy 18th-century adventure. Well-informed readers will recognize the titular creatures as the passengers carried into the skies by Montgolfier's inaugural hot air balloon flight at the Palace of Versailles in 1783. Few, however, will be aware that the three--brilliant aeronautical sheep engineer Bernadette, swashbuckling rooster Pierre, and gifted duck tactician Jean-Luc--went on to lead secret lives righting wrongs and battling evildoers. Notable among the latter is the villainous magician Cagliostro, who, having caught wind of the fact that Benjamin Franklin, a witness to the famous flight, jotted down plans for weaponizing hot air balloons and creating a giant heat ray, has seized both the renowned inventor and his notebook in pursuit of a nefarious plan to make himself King of America. Here, in a mix of prose and profuse graphite drawings that break into mostly wordless sequential panels for action scenes, Phelan lays out a rousing series of chases, clashes, ambushes, and rescues both on and above the ground on the way to a triumphant outcome. The author adds to the animal trio two young humans to do the piloting. He also trots in a host of other historical personages, including Joseph Guillotin ("as sharp a fellow as you are to find in Paris"), Franz Mesmer, King Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette. A grand, giddy, and, at times, literally soaring tale. (author's note) (Adventure. 8-11) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.