“The SheepOver” is an unusual feel-good story. There’s the brief narrative itself, in which an “orphan lamb” named Sweet Pea falls sick and, in a double-whammy happy ending, not only recovers under the tender care of her animal friends, attentive farmer-owners and a country vet named Alison, but is allowed to have a fantastic sleepover party in the greenhouse. There’s also the lovely glimpse the story gives of an interconnected rural utopia, in which farm animals, people and even wild animals look out for one another. And there’s the story’s deeper emotional level: It strikingly calls to mind small children acting out a “real-life” drama with, say, stuffed animals.
That’s all aside from the almost miraculous story of the book itself: It was originally self-published by the Churchmans, who operate a small farm in Vermont and based “The SheepOver” on the true story of one of their own lambs. John Churchman is also a photographer, and he came up with a process to transform photos from the farm to accompany the narration. They brought the book to a local bookstore, whose owner loved it, and they soon found an agent and a fancy New York publisher, landing what’s known in the business as a “mid-six-figure deal” for this book and several more about the creatures on their farm.