Sparky!by Jenny Offill
The ingenious author of 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore and a brilliant illustrator and production designer of the Coraline movie have created a hilarious, touching picture book perfect for young animal lovers. Like the Caldecott Medal-winning Officer Buckle and Gloria, Sparky stars a pet who has more to offer than meets the eye. When our narrator orders a sloth through the mail, the creature that arrives isn't good at tricks or hide-and-seek . . . or much of anything. Still, there's something about Sparky that is irresistible.
Winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award
Depending on one’s feelings about exotic pets, Offill’s (17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore) sloth story is either hilariously hip or burdened with pathos. At the outset, a mother tells her daughter, “You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed.” Within these parameters, the girl acquires a sloth, dubbed Sparky. She tries to coax her low-maintenance pet to do tricks, but complains, “Sometimes he took so long to fetch that I went inside and had dinner while I waited.” Appelhans, an animation illustrator, debuts with watercolors in driftwood brown, teal, and red; readers will detect Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s influence in the palette and in Sparky’s repetitive poses, dangling his arms from a branch or slouching upright. Offill and Appelhans’s glum story recalls the absurdism of J. Otto Seibold’s recent Lost Sloth. By book’s end, both girl and sloth are just about as lonely and miserable as ever, but at least they’re lonely together. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Sally Wofford-Girand, Union Literary. (Mar.)
PreS-Gr 1—A persistent girl asks for a pet until her mother finally relents with a caveat: "You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn't need to be walked or bathed or fed." The school librarian leads the girl to the S volume of the animal encyclopedia, where she discovers the sloth, a creature that barely moves. When her sloth arrives, she names him Sparky, a moniker that suggests energy (unlike her new pet). The girl attempts to impose many un-sloth-like qualities on the quiet creature, playing several games with him that he is bound to lose (except for "Statue") and planning an elaborate Trained Sloth Extravaganza that is hardly eventful. While there are several attempts at humor in the text, ultimately this book is a little sad. The girl only reluctantly accepts that her pet sloth basically does nothing, and rather than embracing this quality, she finishes the book by starting a game of tag with her pet. Well-rendered watercolor and pencil illustrations in subdued hues of brown, green, and red depict a slight, spritely girl and an inexpressive sloth, and therein lies another problem with this book. Sloths are cute and huggable, but this one merely looks lost until the last page when he finally smiles a bit. For children interested in sloths, Lucy Cooke's A Little Book of Sloth (S & S, 2013) is a much better choice, and it includes a reminder that "sloths belong in the wild and should never be kept as pets." Additional.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library
Quietly dry humor marks this story about a most unusual pet. An unassuming girl looks straight out at readers and explains her desire for a pet. She's not fussy, but she can't make it happen: "My mother said no to the bird. / No to the bunny. / No, no, no to the trained seal." Finally her mother consents—sort of: She agrees to any pet "as long as it doesn't need to be walked or bathed or fed." After some library research, "[m]y sloth arrived by Express Mail." Here it gets really funny. The girl waits two days, standing in moonlight and rain next to Sparky's backyard tree, before he even awakens. She teaches him games: "We played King of the Mountain / and I won. // We played Hide-and-Seek / and I won." Sparky never moves a muscle. Sitting on the grass, he's stock-still; on his tree branch, he lies motionless (atop the branch, inexplicably but adorably, not hanging down in sloth fashion). Even his expression's comically immobile. Training sessions and a performance proceed—um—at Sparky's pace, but a beautiful closing illustration of girl and sloth together on his branch shows how close they've grown. Appelhans uses blue and pinky-brown watercolors and pencil on creamy background to create understated humor and affection with a light touch. A serene, funny addition to the new-pet genre. (Picture book. 3-6)
- Random House Children's Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 9.20(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.40(d)
- Age Range:
- 4 - 8 Years
Meet the Author
Jenny Offill is the author of 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore, a Parenting Magazine Best Book of the Year and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year, and 11 Experiments That Failed, also a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year, which Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, called “the most joyful and clever whimsy.” Learn more at jennyoffill.com.
Chris Appelhans was selected as the Children’s Choice Illustrator of the Year at the Children’s Choice Book Awards for Sparky!, his first picture book. The book received two starred reviews, including one from Booklist declaring, “Appelhans is a revelation.” Chris has also worked on several films, as an illustrator and a production designer for Coraline, an environment designer for Fantastic Mr. Fox, and a visual development artist for The Princess and the Frog.
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Sparky is a adorable picture book and the illustrations are so sweet I think this Book is a "WINNER"
This incredible little book begins by the statement, "I want a pet." The girl's mother's response? "You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn't need to be walked or bathed or fed." Wow! That is a serious request! Where does one go to research such a demand? The school librarian is just the person to get it done. She goes through her library shelves and stops at the letter "S".... for "Sloth." Together they discover that the sloth hardly moves, is very quiet and poses little trouble with upkeep to its owner. Just the perfect pet for sure. The little girl goes off to mail-order her new animal companion. When he arrives she names him Sparky. Yes, Sparky, because hopefully that name will invigorate him and put some pep into his life. He really doesn't seem to have much energy or seem to even care about getting the thrills and adventures out of the life around him. Her neighbour Mary Potts fuels the fire by announcing that her cat can dance and her parrot knows twenty words. Oh my! What is a sloth owner to do? She tries to play different games with him .... but he is not enthusiastic about participating and then she has a brilliant idea....she will put on a show, promising "countless tricks" from Sparky. Na....that was to no avail too. The illustrations are created with watercolour and pencil. They are soft, muted and and the colour palette of brown, green and burgandy/red fits the text perfectly. They capture the emotions flawlessly and feature the the artist's hand lettering which I really liked. What the girl discovers is a sloth is ....well....a sloth. He loves to hang out in trees and be quiet and is very slow and loveable. The valuable lesson learned from her adorable sedentary pet? He is perfect just the way he is. He's a keeper for sure. No returns. And HIS keeper she will be for a long, long time.