We Love Picture Books: Sparky!

For someone who doesn't particularly like children, I sure do have a lot of children's picture books. This one is a souvenir from my trip to Powell's in Portland, where I now want to live. (Portland, not Powell's.)(Actually, also Powell's.)

It's called Sparky!, and it's written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans.

A girl wants a pet.

Her mother shoots down all her (very reasonable) suggestions.

She realises that the noble sloth fits all her mother's requirements, so naturally she orders one for delivery.

And, of course, a promise is a promise.

I am obsessed with Appelhans's illustrations. Children's books often fall into the trap of being crazy colourful with a ton of things going on, but there's something so simple and pure about his subdued colour palette and glorious swathes of white space.

His restrained brush strokes manage to capture the full range of human (and sloth) emotion with a warm and appealing touch. I picked this book up off the shelf (and eventually took it home with me) because it manages to hit that sweet spot that I love so much - it's downright tender and adorable without becoming cloying or saccharine.

What I loved most about Offill's writing is how matter-of fact and unpretentious it is. The girl wants a sloth, so naturally she orders one, which comes in the post. Her mother made a promise, so naturally the girl gets to keep him. It's exactly how  kid would hope for that situation to go.

This book is filled with such sweet, simple contentment and friendship. There's no need for a buildup or a big climax; it's just a once-upon-a-time about a girl and her sloth. Perfect.