Everybody thinks they know what sheep are like: they're stupid, noisy, cowardly ('lambs to the slaughter'), and they're 'sheepwrecking' the environment.
Or maybe not. Contrary to popular prejudice, sheep are among the smartest animals in the farmyard, fiercely loyal, forming long and lasting friendships. Sheep, farmed properly, are boons to biodiversity. They also happen to taste good and their fleeces warm us through the winter – indeed, John Lewis-Stempel's family supplied the wool for Queen Elizabeth's 'hose'.
Observing the traditional shepherd's calendar, The Sheep's Tale is a loving biography of ewes, lambs, and rams through the seasons. Lewis-Stempel tends to his flock with deep-rooted wisdom, ethical consideration, affection, and humour. The Sheep’s Tale is a tribute to all the sheep he has reared and sheared – from gregarious Action Ram to sweet Maid Marion. In his inimitable style, he shares the tales that only a shepherd can tell.
John Lewis-Stempel is a farmer and 'Britain's finest living nature writer' (The Times). His books include the Sunday Times bestsellers Woodston, The Running Hare and The Wood. He is the only person to have won the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing twice, with Meadowland and Where Poppies Blow. In 2016 he was named Magazine Columnist of the Year for his column in Country Life. He farms cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. Traditionally.
"I found this book not only pleasingly escapist but also nostalgic [...] the writing is vivid, lyrical and seductive [...] There's a romance to shepherding that is entirely absent from pig and poultry farming."
– The Times
"The Sheep's Tale is an important book on several levels [...] Read a few sentences out loud, wherever you are; everyone should know more about sheep."
– Rosamund Young, author of The Secret Life of Cows
"A book of brilliant authenticity. Lewis-Stempel's affection for, and empathy with, sheep springs off every page."
– Sally Coulthard, author of A Short History of the World According to Sheep
"John Lewis Stempel's paean of praise for our wonderful and unique breeds of British sheep ought to be widely read. Sheep and pastoral farming are coming under increasingly strident onslaught and they will need every ounce of support they can get if they are to survive into the future."
– Philip Walling, author of Counting Sheep
"This little book is both delightful and useful."
– Country Life
"An insider's account of the gentle art of shepherding [...] a paean to a lost era, when shepherds watched their flocks by night and regarded them with respectful understanding, rather than exploiting them as mere commodities [...] delivered with engaging wit [...] intelligently argued and full of surprising facts."
"[Lewis-Stempel is] a superb nature writer [...] Anyone who tells you that these creatures are stupid is pulling the wool over your eyes."
"A warm-hearted and deeply personal biography of ewes, rams and lambs [...] His affection for his flock shines through these shepherding tales."
– The Countryman