Author: Jenny Offill

Illustrator: Chris Appelhans

Our young heroine wants a pet very, very much. But her mother has all sorts of expectations that rule out most pets. Finally, the girl has it! She’ll get a sloth: no walks, no expensive feed, extremely low maintenance. Her mom’s not exactly thrilled at having a sloth for a pet, but she did promise and she keeps her promise. Sparky is very different from most pets, and sometimes that’s hard for other people to understand. But with some creativity, even a sloth can be fun to play with, right?

I have fairly mixed opinions about Sparky! On the positive side, the illustrations are wonderful watercolors (although the red noses are kind of weird). The story emphasizes the importance of keeping promises as well, which is good. On the negative side, the girl’s mom is kind of distant (although that’s sadly normal for a lot of kids, it seems) and the girl tries too hard to show off to make up for people’s unimpressed opinions of her new pet. Also, she mail ordered a sloth without her mom’s knowledge? What?! And to complete my mixed impressions, there’s really nothing conclusive in any direction–it’s sort of an “it is what it is; take what you can from it” sort of story from start to finish. I guess that could be good for discussions if your child’s into that, but I prefer stories to have a bit more direction. Still, Sparky! was interesting, and as I said, the art’s really nice–one of those books that I’d recommend checking out at the library first before buying, I suppose.

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