Martha the Blue Sheep Review

Author Gabrielle Yetter inspires children to embrace who they are, even if they are different, with the help of two talented Cambodian artists.

Martha The Blue Sheep cover

Gabrielle Yetter’s journey is inspiring. British born, she had been working as a journalist in South Africa, but had grown tired of the nine-to-five. Tired of life on the treadmill, as she puts it. So in 2010 she left it all behind, moving to Cambodia. She’s now called India, Bahrain, South Africa, America and England home over the years, and used her experience writing as a reporter to begin making her own books. In 2016, that included her first children’s book, Ogden, The Fish Who Couldn’t Swim Straight. And she has now followed it up with Martha the Blue Sheep.

It’s fair to say Gabrielle Yetter is different. Her life journey is different. How could she not be, having such courage to leave it all behind and having seen so much of our world? Of being a stranger in foreign lands. It must be something she understands well, and she channels that into Martha the Blue Sheep.

As she told Old Mate Media, her purpose for creating the book was clear from the outset. “I wrote this story as a message for children (and adults) to show it can be special to be different. In designing this book I hoped to inspire and motivate kids who feel they don’t fit in. To show them how to celebrate their individuality.”

With the help of two young Cambodian artists – Daro Sam and Monnyreak Ket – she turned that idea into a book. And that book landed in our inbox.

Martha the Blue Sheep Story Review

In a flock of white sheep, Martha really stands out. Martha is blue, you see. She is different. Martha wasn’t always blue, but we learn early on the book that it’s a result of her curious nature. She went wandering into the local town when she heard there was a festival on and got so distracted she fell into some blue paint. And being blue, made her sad. Even worse, no matter what she tried, she could not get the paint off and return to white, like everyone else. Will Martha and her family be able embrace the concept of being different?

Gabrielle Yetter’s setup is simple, clear and easy for kids to follow. While the underlying message is never in doubt, it’s critical that Martha’s journey to being different is easy to relate to. Especially as it is not a difference she is inherently born with. Yetter completes this challenge. As a result, the ways in which being different impacts Martha psychologically is impactful. It resonates, regardless of the reader’s age.

In the latter half of the story, when a wolf enters the fray as the unlikely catalyst for change, getting the message across becomes a little more complex. I wondered on first read if the core ideal – that if you embrace your own differences the world will embrace you – might be lost a little. Worried because Martha has to do a good deed before her family will accept her. But perhaps that is too deep an analysis for the target audience.

In the end, Martha and her family find a happy outcome. One in which her blue colour isn’t a vector for bullying or condemnation, but one embraced for being different and special. It’s an outcome that makes Martha, and readers, feel good.

Martha the Blue Sheep Tech Review

In tune with the theme, there is something a little different about the art of Daro Sam and Monnyreak Ket. It’s almost like a puzzle of various shapes put together with curious, eye-catching angles. It’s simple, but I really like it. And it smartly switches up perspectives to draw you into the world. When Martha enters the town, we look over her shoulder seeing it with her. When she is feeling sad, we look down on her. It’s done quite well.

Like many self-published children’s books, Martha the Blue Sheep uses a square layout. The design works just fine in printed form, but does struggle on digital devices. The way the text and the larger images are placed on the page makes sense in print, where two pages sit next to each other. In digital form, however, it often hides elements connected to each other on the next screen swipe. We’re big here at Old Mate Media about changing a book’s design when switching between print and digital formats to maximise the benefits of both. And I think Martha the Blue Sheep could have profited from this approach. It’s certainly still enjoyable to read, but using a print format on a digital device presents as a missed opportunity.

The text itself is well spread-out for the most part. There were one or two places where I’d have shaped it a bit nicer into its available space – such as when Louper the wolf first speaks – but these moments were minor. No single page was overly text heavy, and each scene was well supported by art that got across the action effectively.

Worth Reading

As mentioned, I find Gabrielle Yetter’s story inspiring. It’s startlingly close to my own, even right down to the successful career as a journalist. I think she has made a great little children’s picture book with its heart in the right place and a story that will resonate with your children in only good ways.

Essential Info:

  • Author: Gabrielle Yetter
  • Illustrators: Daro Sam and Monnyreak Ket
  • Suitable for: Ages 4-8
  • Where to Buy: Amazon

Where to Next?

Are you looking for more great children’s books? Then visit the Old Mate Media library. If you are an author or illustrator looking to make their own children’s book, then look through our services in the main menu, or read our step-by-step guide. For authors and illustrators already published who would like to have their book reviewed, then head here to learn more.

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