Review: Sparky! by Jenny Offill


Sparky! by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans

A little girl wanted a pet but her mother would only let her have a pet that doesn’t need to be walked, bathed or fed.  So the girl went to the library and the school librarian pointed her towards sloths.  Her sloth arrived in the mail and she named him Sparky.  She immediately took him to his tree where he went promptly to sleep.  He didn’t wake up for two days.  She tried playing games with him but they didn’t really work since the girl won every single time.  The only game that Sparky could win was Statue.  He was really good at it.  That weekend, Mary Potts came over to see the sloth, but she didn’t approve.  She said her parrot could say twenty words and her cat could walk on its hind legs.  The girl said that Sparky could do tricks too, and now she would have to prove it.  But what in the world can Sparky actually do?

Told in the first person by the little girl, this book celebrates a pet may not be able to do traditional tricks like other more active animals, but definitely can hold its own as a companion.  Offill has created a wonderful story filled with gently funny moments like trying to play hide-and-seek with a sloth that doesn’t move.  As the girl trains the sloth to do tricks, I was happy to see that Sparky remained steadfastly a sloth and didn’t change into something else at all. 

Appelhans’ illustrations also have a great quietness to them.  Done in watercolor and pencil, they are subtly colored, with the backgrounds and characters primarily in browns.  Then there are occasional pops of red too.  My favorite picture is the sloth arriving via mail with his arms, legs and head popping out of the box and the up arrow facing straight down as if he should be carried on his head. 

This is a book that is slow, steady and heartfelt, just like Sparky himself.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

Review: A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke

little book of sloth

A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke

Welcome to the world of the Avarios Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, the world’s only sloth orphanage.  Here you will meet the residents like the queen of the sanctuary, Buttercup, who started the entire thing.  Now over 20 years old, she is the oldest sloth living in captivity.  She was soon joined at the sanctuary by many others.  There are tiny baby twins and others who are so small they have to  have clothes made for them out of socks to keep them warm.  There are injured sloths who give incredible hugs.  The book describes the different kinds of sloths, how they live such chill lives, and the remarkable ways they survive in the wild moving that slowly.  This is a book that will enchant you with the fuzzy warmth of sloths.

Cooke writes in a frank and direct way, describing the sanctuary and its residents with plenty of humor.  After all, there is lots of to laugh at in a poo pole all on its own, add in confused little sloths and you have pure stinky magic.  She also makes sure that readers understand how special the sanctuary and these animals are.  It is a book of appreciation with a tone of wonder at times.

The illustrations are photographs of the sloths and their lives in the sanctuary.  You get to meet all sorts of personalities and ages throughout the book and their stories are told quickly but effectively.  The images help a lot, showing the place rather than having lengthy explanations slow things down. 

A great addition to library collections, this book has a great charm about it just like the sloths themselves.  Warm and welcoming, this book is all about being more chill.  Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.