cover image Sparky!


Jenny Offill, illus. by Chris Appelhans. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-87023-1

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.)