Book Review: Sparky! by Jenny Offill & Chris Appelhans | Diapers & Daydreams

Jenny Offill’s  story begins with a young girl begging her mother for her first pet, a scenario many readers young and old will connect with. “You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed.” With limited choices, the girl mail orders a sloth and names him Sparky, with great hopes he will be the amazing pet she has been dreaming of! She cheerfully dedicates herself to caring for and getting to know him, but sadly, she quickly learns that the facts she read in the library about sloths being low maintenance and not needing anything or anyone are the ugly truth. Sparky can’t play hide-and-seek, tag or fetch, he can’t do any tricks to impress her friends. Heck, Sparky has a difficult time just staying awake.

Chris Appelhans (illustrator of films Coraline and The Fantastic Mr. Fox) has created gentle, genius illustrations to accompany this lovable story. Sparky’s lack of movement and glum emotion is so quiet, yet he somehow jumps off the page with personality. You cannot help but feel sorry the unfortunate circumstances of our heroine, but at the same time, Sparky is irresistible and you’ll adore him in all his lazy glory.

Offill and Appelhans have created a hilarious yet sad, touching picture book.  It is perfect in so many ways. The story alone is so good you would love the book without the illustrations. The illustrations alone are so good, you would love the book without the story. And that, in my humble opinion, is the mark of a perfect story.

On a side note, Offhill’s sloth tale is perfect for novice pet owners or those of us who remember what it was like to have our first pet. In fact, the beginning half of this story, the wanting, the begging, the bargaining for a pet, not to mention the title of this book, struck such a cord with me as it mirrored my own childhood first pet story: “A young Regina wanted a puppy. She and her father built a beautiful doghouse, painted it pink and wrote “Sparky” across the doorway. Regina’s mother then said “No” to a dog. Regina would receive a hamster.” Oh, that beautiful pink doghouse! Sparky the Hamster never did get to enjoy it much.

Dolly really getting into Sparky!!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from The Guardian (UK) Book Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”