cover image Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World

Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World

Colleen A.F. Venable, illus. by Ruth Chan. Greenwillow, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-233847-1

Mervin has top billing, but the real star of Venable’s (the Guinea Pea, Pet Shop Private Eye series) semi-metafictional story is the title itself. Rendered in chunky block letters, it drops (slowly) into the first spread and serves as narrative scaffolding for everything that follows. Having made its announcement about Mervin—who is placidity on steroids—the title draws an ever-growing group of animal kibitzers. Debating what Mervin is going to do, a bird (who has crashed into the word the) announces, “Everybody knows that the best thing in the world is...” but before he can say “flying,” a gopher chimes in with “Digging!” As more characters gather around the typography, the speculation runs the gamut from “Mervin is going to do all our homework!” to “Mervin’s going to invent a time machine!” The “best thing” revealed at the end (also announced in giant type) is both sweet and something of a letdown. But the repartee that precedes it and Chan’s (Where’s the Party?) cartoon choreographing of the argumentative cast crackle with silly energy. Ages 4–8. [em]Author’s agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Sept.) [/em]