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It is exceedingly challenging to explain to a young child that people simply are who they are. No matter how hard we try or how much we wish it, more often than not, there is little we can do to change them. Learning this is almost a rite of passage- one that often leads to frustration and tears. I think this is why I fell so in love with Sparky, by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Applehans- it imparts this notion in such a beautiful and relatable way, while also managing to captivate children because it’s just so darn adorable.
In Sparky, a little girl wants nothing more than a pet. Her mom finally relents, but she has a list of instructions about characteristics the pet must not exhibit. So what complies with her mother’s stringent requirements? None other than a sloth. The child is thrilled when Sparky the Sloth arrives in the mail, but she soon comes to realize that having a pet may be quite different than anticipated.
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This book is just irresistibly charming. Sparky’s owner tries hard to turn him into a circus show– something he is so clearly not. And it is only after her show flops that she finally recognizes who Sparky is– and how perfect he is for her even if he can’t perform in the ways she had been hoping. Kids so often want their friends or siblings to be just like them, to do just what they want to do, and typically, different personalities make such desires challenging. You can’t impose your will and desires on others- it simply goes against human nature. This book gets that. It so wonderfully imparts to little ones that the best part of friendship comes when you are truly able to recognize who is sitting beside you- and to embrace that special someone for everything they are– and are not. Sparky is a quiet charmer, and we can’t rave about it enough!
Want the book? Get it here! Sparky, by Jenny Offill.