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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Review of LAUNCHING SHEEP AND OTHER STORIES FROM THE INTERSECTION OF HISTORY AND NONSENSE


Full disclosure: Sarah Angleton and I belong to Coffee and Critique, a weekly critique group which is also a chapter of the Missouri Writers’ Guild. Sarah gave me a copy of Launching Sheep & Other Stories from the Intersection of History & Nonsense in exchange for an interview, which can be found on my blog, Donna’s Book Pub, and a candid review of her book.

The following is my honest review:
Photo courtesy of
The Practical Historian blog

Published by Bright Button Press, Launching Sheep & Other Stories from the Intersection of History & Nonsense is a 288-page eclectic collection of more than 80 posts selected from Angleton's blog, “The Practical Historian.”

My first impression was the eye-catching dark cover and first few words in the title, which belie what's inside. Launching Sheep & Other Stories is neither a mystery novel, which someone commented they thought it was, nor is it a collection of dark tales about animal sacrifice or bizarre rituals from medieval times, which a quick glance at the cover might suggest. In reality, Launching Sheep is a selection of family-friendly blog posts with light-hearted glimpses of lesser-known historical facts and events.

Angleton’s blog posts collection begins in the spring of 2012, when she and her family are living in the Pacific Northwest. She wraps it up in the autumn of 2016, when they have moved to the Midwest. Earlier posts are peppered with parentheticals, which comment on or explain the previous text. As Angleton and her family relocate and she returns to her Midwestern roots, her posts take on a conversational tone without as many parentheticals.

Angleton’s book showcases her skills as a writer, researcher, and marketeer. Throughout her collection, she weaves family tales and historical happenings, along with touches of wisdom and wit. With a show of finesse and deft keystrokes on her laptop, she tells her family stories without being self-indulgent or self-congratulatory.

In her “Advance Token to Nearest Railroad” post which begins on page 68, she confesses to a competitive streak when it comes to the board game Monopoly. In “That’s How It Could Have Happened” starting on page 228, she shares her reaction to what might have been a ruinous accident that happened immediately before a neighborhood Christmas party. Hmm. That post also reveals historical facts about another popular board game; this time it’s about Clue, one of my childhood favorites.

Reading Launching Sheep is like sitting a kitchen table with a neighbor and listening to cherished stories about her family, kids, and adventures, as well as hearing quirky historical facts. What is evident throughout Angleton’s collection is that she is a loving wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. Also apparent is her talent as a writer and fascination with unusual historical characters and events.

Angleton gets bonus points for marketing skills with a brief preview of her upcoming historical fiction novel, Smoke Rose to Heaven, which appears at the end of this book.

Readers who have a soft spot for books with stories about family life or who have an interest in lesser-known historical happenings will enjoy Angleton’s book. I found it to be honest, informative, and entertaining. Especially attractive is the way the book is organized. Launching Sheep & Other Stories from the Intersection of History and Nonsense can be devoured from cover to cover or in short spurts, depending on which title captures a reader’s attention.

With an intriguing title and a set-up like that, what’s not to like?

Launching Sheep & Other Stories from the Intersection of History & Nonsense is available here. You can also read Sarah's interview about the book here.

1 comment:

Marcia G. said...

I loved this collection of (somewhat dubious) historical facts! How interesting, from the point of view of an average curious bystander, who is also raising young boys. Funny, witty, entertaining all the way.