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Sparky! Hardcover – March 11, 2014

56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

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

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Heres 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 überachiever 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. Preschool-Grade 1. --Ilene Cooper

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 520L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (March 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375870237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375870231
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.4 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The sloth is not a noble animal. Few people spend time contemplating their heroic qualities and distinguished countenances. Had I an Oxford English Dictionary on hand I’d be mighty interested to learn whether or not the term “sloth” as in “a habitual disinclination to exertion” was inspired by the tropical, slow-moving animal or if it was the other way around. Perhaps it is because of this that we don’t see them starring in too many picture books for kids. Sure you’ll get the occasional Lost Sloth by J. Otto Seibold, A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke, or even Slowly Slowly Slowly Said the Sloth by Eric Carle, but unlike other animals there is no great slothian icon. When you say “sloth” to the average person on the street, they don’t instantly think of a famous one. Sparky! may come close to changing that. Tongue planted firmly in cheek, the sublime and subversive Jenny Offill pairs with first timer Chris Appelhans to give us a subdued but strangely content little tale about that most classic of all friendships: a girl and her sloth.

“You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed.” Our heroine’s mom probably regrets telling this to her daughter but it’s too late now. The minute she said it the girl headed straight to the library and there, in the S volume of the Animal Encyclopedia, she learned about sloths. In no time at all one appears via Express Mail and she names him Sparky (thereby giving away the fact that she harbors impossible sloth-related dreams). Her know-it-all neighbor Mary Potts is not impressed, so our heroine determines to show off her pet in a “Trained Sloth Extravaganza”. Naturally, this does not go as planned, but even after everyone has left and it’s just her and Sparky, she can’t help but love the little guy.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sara VINE VOICE on March 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The little girl in SPARKY! is promised a pet - "as long as it doesn't need to be walked or bathed or fed." The helpful local librarian introduces the girl to the sloth, which in addition to being the laziest animal in the world, fulfills all of her mother's requirements. When the sloth arrives, she names him Sparky and, once delivered to his tree in the back yard, he doesn't wake for two whole days. Though Sparky might not be like most pets - he doesn't fetch or roll over, but he is really quite good at playing statue - she loves him all the same. Adorable illustrations and a quirky story about a girl and her pet sloth, SPARKY! is sure to become a new favorite!
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Format: Hardcover
While the focus of this book is Sparky the sloth, his story would not be possible without the girl who ordered him by mail and gave him his name. Like many kids, the kid narrating this tale REALLY wants a pet, but her (seemingly workaholic) mother insists it has to be low-maintenance, and on a trip to the library, she learns about sloths, a furry creature (that’s the basis for many of the “Bigfoot” legends, that’s just my personal theory) that meets all the criteria-

-Low Maintenance
-Doesn't Need to be Walked
-Can’t cause various mischief
(Which one neighbor in the book appreciates)

While Sparky can’t do what other pets do, his girl learns to see the best in him in ways no one else can. When you give a dog treats, they’ll eat them all, but with Sparky, you share a cookie, meaning he gets half, than you get the other half!

While first person narration is common in YA and some middle grade fiction, it’s RARE to see first person narrator in a picture book when most often the reader is an adult (or an older tween or teen sibling), but Jenny pulls it off with noticeable skill. Not only from a technical standpoint, but also sounds like the kid narrate this story.

The impressionistic, clay/watercolor hybrid illustrations by Chris Appelhans bring quirky warmth to the experience. Kids with nontraditional pets will get a kick out of Sparky, a sloth that despite being slower than turtles, and more sedate than your eccentric cousin thrice removed after Thanksgiving has more to offer than what the cover image above leads you believe.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Liz on May 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Got this book for my 3-y-o daughter after reading Jenny Offill's "Dept. of Speculation." It is a sweet and funny story about friendship and sticking up for the underdog. Lovely drawings by Chris Applebaum. We live two blocks from the city zoo where there are sloths in trees just OUT IN THE OPEN in a conservatory...it's easier for her to understand why: "Sloths not run away," she said during last week's visit.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Helpful Advice TOP 100 REVIEWER on April 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
‘Sparky!’ written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans brings story about a girl who very much desired to have a pet, and because of her mom who asked that pet should be undemanding, she will accommodate an unusual pet.

When her mother said that she can have pet she want as long as it doesn’t need to be walked, bathed or fed, a girl asked her school librarian to help her find such animal. They will find perfect match – a sloth.

From the start her pet was unusual; she named him Sparky and he didn't wake up for two days. And when he finally did, there was no much interaction between them, because he only blinked several times and got back to sleep.

And although she may want more from her pet, showing it her friends and play with him, the girl will still be happy because she will eventually fall in love with his sloth nature making Sparky the best pet in the world…

Jenny Offill’s ‘Sparky’ is very charming story speaking about the young girl and her special pet, although in its deeper meaning kind of sad because it shows how parents because of overall pace of life are sometimes don’t understand or have enough time for their children.

Chris Appelhans made nice watercolor illustrations combining several key colors – blue, brown, green and red - while large white background further enhances the details in the drawings that occupy the center of the page. The font chosen for book text is also very nice, which makes the picture book looks like it was written by hand, further contributing to the uniqueness of this book for children.
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