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Mervin the Sloth is About to do the Best Thing in the World by Colleen AF Venable

MERVIN THE SLOTH
IS ABOUT TO DO THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD
Written by Colleen AF Venable
Illustrated by Ruth Chan
(Greenwillow Books, $17.99, Ages 4-8)

is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

Cover image of picture book Mervin The Sloth is About to do The Best Thing in The World

 

Lots of letters and cute, colorful animals fill the picture book page stage in Mervin the Sloth is About to do the Best Thing in the World. Mervin moves so, so, slowly, just as one might expect a sloth to do. Thank goodness for the quirky cast of energetic and inquisitive characters that show up to pepper him and his red panda buddy with questions!

The title of the book drops slowly into the book pages and hangs as a continuous prop for a bird, gazelle, prairie dogs and many other animals. Puzzled by the meaning of the title, they all make suggestions about exactly what it isill he fly? Dig? Or even go “gazelling”? It’s a great opportunity for reading partners to imagine and discuss what activities other species might think are the “Best Things in the World.”

So slowly, almost imperceptibly, Mervin’s arms are lifting up. Does this offer any clues to impatient readers? Will he fight a shark? Turn into a robot? The animals wait, wait, wait. Their quirky speech bubbles get quieter, then a little testy, before they stride off to more thrilling adventures. But Red Panda patiently persists – he must know Mervin better than anyone. In fact, he just might be Mervin’s best friend!

Chan masterfully builds suspense by adding comic critters one by one onto a simple background, allowing young readers to get to know their personalities through goofy expressions and funny speech bubbles. By the middle of the book, the pages have filled with a colorful riot of animals, bubbles, and letters crowding Mervin, who steadfastly maintains his center stage placement. Venable’s simple, silly dialogue compels readers to continue flipping pages until the final reveal.

It’s high time that a picture book combined a red panda and a sloth as main characters, and Mervin the Sloth is About to do the Best Thing in the World will definitely appeal to young readers that appreciate their comic and cuddly friendship.

Click here for Mervin’s sloth-themed paper craft and more!

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a copy of Mervin the Sloth is About to do the Best Thing in the World from the publishers and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

  • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey
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Sparky! by Jenny Offill

Savor the Silly, Slothy Delights of Sparky!

sparky!.jpg

Sparky! by Jenny Offill with illustrations by Chris Applehans, © 2014 Schwartz & Wade/Random House Books for Young Readers.

Sparky!, written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans (Schwartz & Wade Books, $16.99, Ages 4-8) is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

An earnest young girl asks her mother every day for a month if she can have a pet. Mom finally acquiesces, as long as “it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed.” A bit of research in the Animal Encyclopedia leads her to select a sloth, which arrives by Express Mail. Our sweet narrator optimistically names him “Sparky,” finds him a tree home, and attempts to engage him in games like Hide-and-Seek and Kung Fu Fighter.

Sparky! will delight any young reader who has or desires a non-traditional pet. The narrator is a fine role model who exudes patience and acceptance, allowing her new friend to acclimate at his own very, very slow pace. All is well until she endeavors to teach Sparky “countless tricks” to perform in a Trained Sloth Extravaganza. Funny scenes ensue as she implores the be-glittered Sparky to play dead, roll over, and speak.

Appelhans’ warm brown illustrations are both subdued and comical, perfectly capturing the dull but endearing expressions of the sloth on a limited creamy colored background. Splashes of blue-green and gentle red add warm, bright accents in soft detail. Offill’s text is spot-on for the reflective and thoughtful child, expressing a lovely balance between hope, humor and twinges of doubt.

Sparky! is filled with slow sweetness and quirky humor that is appealing and fun. Don’t speed past this story without savoring its silly delights.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

NOTE: This book will be on sale March 11, 2014. In the meantime, kids can begin enjoying some slothy activities by clicking here.

Where obtained: I received a review copy from the publisher and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

 

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