restricted access Sparky! by Jenny Offill (review)
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Reviewed by
Offill, Jenny. Sparky!; illus. by Chris Appelhans. Schwartz & Wade, 2014. [32p]. Library ed. ISBN 978-0-375-97023-8 $19.99 Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-375-87023-1 $16.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-375-98859-2 $10.99 Reviewed from galleys R 5-7 yrs.

A young girl desperately wants a pet but has to find one that will meet her mother’s low-maintenance stipulations, so she’s delighted to discover that a sloth would fill the bill nicely. Her sloth soon arrives, his limbs and head poked through holes of his shipping box, and the girl dubs him Sparky and plants him in a tree, where he is quite content to stay. Know-it-all peer Mary Potts is dismissive of Sparky, prompting the protagonist to promise a “Trained Sloth Extravaganza” in which to show off Sparky. He’s pretty limited in the tricks department, though, and Mary Potts remains unimpressed; the girl, however, doesn’t let that ruin her outlook and continues to love Sparky just as he is. There’s a subtle dry wit to Offill’s cogent narrative (“I kept wishing I had written Two Tricks on the poster, instead of Countless Tricks”), which makes a clever partner to Appelhans’ endearing watercolor and pencil illustrations. The long-armed, wide-eyed Sparky has an adorably teddy bear-like posture and expression, while subdued tones of blue, brown, and gray are attractively [End Page 371] highlighted by brighter touches of red against a creamy matte background. Pair this with Cooke’s A Little Book of Sloth (BCCB 2/13) to maximize its “Aww!” factor.