Jenny Offill, 1968-

Book - 2014

A child takes a sloth named Sparky as a pet.

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Picture books
New York : Schwartz & Wade Books [2014]
Main Author
Jenny Offill, 1968- (-)
Other Authors
Chris Appelhans (illustrator)
First edition
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 25 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

Ismail, a British illustrator with a background in animation, uses bright, beautiful brush strokes of watercolor to convey the manic, tail-wagging, mud-spattering energy that Fred, a furry black mop of a dog, brings to bedtime. Though Fred is the center of attention, Ismail adds just the right amount of decorative intensity to his surroundings: Look out for the cleverly appropriate book titles ("Woof," "A Shaggy Tale") that at last persuade this exuberant puppy to settle down for a story. IS THAT MY CAT? Written and illustrated by Jonathan Allen. 28 pp. Boxer Books. $16.95. (Picture book; ages 2 to 6) No slim kitty, this cat is nearly as wide as she is long, and seems to spend all day eating and sleeping. The boy who cares for her is perplexed. "My cat is a little cat who leaps in and out of the cat flap," he insists, while Allen's pictures suggest otherwise: The cat, Winnie-the-Pooh-like, gets stuck with her front half inside and her back half out. What's going on? Soon, the cat's reverted to her old svelte self, but there's a big surprise (six little ones, really) mewing in the closet. SHOE DOG By Megan McDonald. Illustrated by Katherine Tillotson. 40 pp. Richard Jackson/Atheneum. $17.99. (Picture book; ages 3 to 6) "Dog wanted a home. A real home. A place full of hundreds of nose kisses, dozens of tummy rubs." Adopted by "Herself," Dog couldn't be happier, until he is banished to the basement for chewing up shoes. In Tillotson's charcoal-and-crayon drawings, the scribbly dog's desires are at odds with his owner's elegant wardrobe. McDonald - of the Judy Moody books - knows how to tell this story from the puppy's perspective; young readers may find they share his sensibility, if not (we hope!) his habits. MATILDA'S CAT Written and illustrated by Emily Gravett. 32 pp. Simon & Schuster. $16.99. (Picture book; ages 4 to 8) Dressed in a stripy cat suit, Matilda, who looks to be about 4, has all sorts of ideas for how to play with her similarly striped cat. But kitty turns her nose up at each activity Matilda proposes, from tree-climbing to bike-riding - even the promising prospect of fooling around with yarn. Gravett's charming pictures of the determined girl and her skeptical cat are full of funny details as the two struggle to figure out what they have in common. Could it involve napping? SPARKY! By Jenny Offill. Illustrated by Chris Appelhans. 40 pp. Schwartz & Wade. $16.99. (Picture book; ages 4 to 8) Perhaps not everyone will see the humor in naming a sloth Sparky, but this distinctively illustrated story will amuse those who do. A lonely girl, painted in rainy-day watercolor washes of teal and brown, longs for a pet. Her mother agrees, if it "doesn't need to be walked or bathed or fed." The sloth that arrives by Express Mail spends most of his time slumped over a tree branch, but his presence brings a smile of delight to his young owner; he really is just what she wanted. ONLINE A slide show of this week's illustrated books at

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [March 16, 2014]
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Here's how it starts: I wanted a pet. The narrator's mother agrees, as long as it doesn't need to be walked, bathed or fed. A librarian helps narrow her choices to a field of one: Sloths are the laziest animal in the world. After its arrival, our narrator hopefully names her sloth Sparky, but alas, he is as described in books. Sparky's owner doesn't mind too much until provoked by uberachiever Mary Potts, who informs her that not only does she have a cat that dances but also a parrot that knows 20 words. What's a sloth owner to do? Put on a show, promising countless tricks from Sparky! One of the wonderful things about this book is that there is no surprise ending. A sloth is a sloth. The show is as deadly dull as one would or should expect. But from that sad little event comes a moment of love so pure and elemental that it will affect readers of all ages. Offill and Appelhans have created quite a perfect package. The text is spare yet amusing and full of important messages presented in the most subtle of ways. Appelhans, whose career up to now has been in animated films such as Coraline, is a revelation. The enticing watercolor-and-pencil art, mostly in soft shades of browns and burgundies and featuring the artist's hand lettering, captures a range of emotions, at least from the humans. Furry, flat-nosed Sparky, on the other hand, just is, and that, as it turns out, is enough.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2014 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

A young girl wants a pet, but what kind? Her mother okays any critter that "doesn't need to be walked or bathed or fed," so the girl outwits her with a sloth. The sad-eyed mammal she names Sparky arrives by "Express Mail" in a box, holes cut out for the head, arms, and legs. But the girl's excitement turns to disappointment as reality sets in: "It was two days before I saw him awake." She tries to teach Sparky to play hide-and-seek, to roll over, to fetch: nothing. After a misguided pseudo-talent show (the "Trained Sloth Extravaganza") is a bust, the girl accepts that, while Sparky is no whirling dervish, he is an endearing companion. Animator Appelhans makes an auspicious picture book debut with strikingly beautiful watercolor and pencil illustrations. His style, reminiscent of Jon Klassen's, incorporates a muted color palette of pinks, browns, and green-blues, but with a slightly softer, rounder quality, while also weaving in visual deadpan humor (the sloth is a brilliant straight man). However, the text doesn't feel completely fleshed out, leaving the pictures to do too much of the heavy lifting. For instance, one of the story's recurring themes -- the importance of honoring a commitment -- feels underdeveloped, leaving the final, visually gorgeous sunset spread of girl and sloth somewhat lacking in impact. Even so, this lovably lazy pet will fast win his way into readers' hearts. sam bloom (c) Copyright 2014. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

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 consentssort 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 proceedumat 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)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.