Tag Archives: Animals

#365PictureBooks Day 18 – Picture book / non-fiction pairing – Sloths!

I’m going to highlight a picture book / non-fiction pair that I think will work brilliantly with each other and really engage and amuse our students. I requested these two books separately from the Public Library and serendipitously they arrived together.

Sparky! Written by Jenny Offill & Illustrated by Chris Appelhans

‘Sparky stars a pet who has more to offer than meets the eye. When our narrator orders a sloth through the mail, the creature that arrives isn’t good at tricks or hide-and-seek . . . or much of anything. Still, there’s something about Sparky that is irresistible.’

Publisher: Random House 

Pair with:

The power of sloth by Lucy Cooke.

Prepare to crumble, very slowly, into a heap of happiness as you learn more about a species about which you may know very littleThe Guardian

Hang around just like a sloth and get to know the delightful residents of the Avarios Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, the world’s largest sloth orphanage. You’ll fall in love with bad-boy Mateo, ooh and ahh over baby Biscuit, and want to wrap your arms around champion cuddle buddy Ubu!‘ Publisher

As part of  a PYP: Sharing the planet unit,  our youngest students inquire into pets – they look at the different kinds of pets and what makes a good pet. I think Sparky! will be a great picture book to get them started. The little girl who narrates the story explains how she came to have how a sloth for a pet and it’s really because her mother doesn’t want her to have a pet at all, and she told her daughter … “You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed“. She has already said…”no to the bird. No to the bunny. No, no, no to the trained seal“.

Curriculum connections aside – this is a gorgeous story that children will love. The story also features a rather helpful and understanding School Librarian!

The highly pictorial non-fiction book “the power of sloth” will prove a good foil to some of the ideas raised in Sparky! The author explains the life cycle, habitat and characteristics of the two types of sloth very well. She also explains why they must be left in the wild and not kept as pets.

I would combine the Power of sloth with the picture book for slightly older students (For very young kindergarten  students I would show the videos from Lucy Cooke’s “Slothville” website in conjunction with reading Sparky! or use “Being a sloth – highlighted at the bottom of this post, which we have as a multi-user ebook through MackinVIA).

Wonderopolis: Are sloths lazy?

Bibliographic details:

Sparky! / Written by Jenny Offill & Illustrated by Chris Appelhans

Published by Schwartz & Wade, 2014

40 pages.


NZ RRP $33.50

I recommend reading Margie Myers-Culver’s fabulous review at Librarian’s quest

The power of sloth /by Lucy Cooke.

Published by Franklin Watts, 2014

29 pages.


NZ RRP $21.99

NB: Published in the USA as ‘A little book of sloth’ (2013)

Other books to consider:

Delightful series for the younger set: Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn & Nick Price

I have admired the covers of this delightful series for a long time, but have only recently taken the time to sit down and read one. These stories are delightful – I finished the first and then read the second and third adventures straight after. These are really great little adventure stories, yes the characters have a great deal of “cute” factor but the stories are rich and interesting and children 6-7+ will be delighted. So far there are seven books in the series. Reading them in order is not absolutely necessary, but the first book does explain the characters and the setting particularly well. Now that I have read them I know I will be a lot more confident about recommending them to both girls and boys. There is a connection for any children who enjoy playing with toys based on miniature worlds, for example Sylvanian Families.


Tumtum and Nutmeg Written by Emily Bearn and illustrated by Nick Price. Published by Egmont, 2008.

From the Tumtum and Nutmeg website: In the broom cupboard of a small dwelling called Rose Cottage, stands a house fit for a mouse – well, two mice actually. A house made of pebblestone, with gables on the windows and turrets peeking out of the roof. A house with a ballroom, a billiard room, a banqueting room, a butler’s room and a drawing room. The house belongs to Mr and Mrs Nutmouse, or Tumtum and Nutmeg as they affectionately call each other.

Tumtum and Nutmeg have a wonderful life but the children who live in Rose Cottage, Arthur and Lucy, are less fortunate. So, one day Tumtum and Nutmeg decide to cheer them up …Tumtum repairs the electric heater in the attic where the children sleep and Nutmeg darns the children’s clothes. Arthur and Lucy are delighted and think a Fairy is looking after them.

But then Aunt Ivy with her green eyelids and long, elasticy arms arrives. She hates mice and hatches a plan to get rid of them. Soon Tumtum and Nutmeg are no longer safe to venture out. When Aunt Ivy uncovers the location of Nutmouse Hall it’s a race against time for Tumtum and Nutmeg – can they thwart her evil plans in time?

The books in series order:

  • Tumtum and Nutmeg
  • The Great Escape
  • The Pirates’ Treasure
  • A Christmas Adventure
  • A Seaside Adventure
  • A Circus Adventure
  • Trouble at Rose Cottage

REVIEWS: (Source Tumtum and Nutmeg website)

“There’s a delightfully twitchy quality to Tumtum and Nutmeg which, despite their clothes and their domesticity, makes them seem genuinely mousey, and the small-scale world they inhabit is full of just the right tiny details.” – Guardian Review section

“Told simply, with charming detail, this old-fashioned and well published story …will delight children who are of an age to relish secret friends and a cosy world in miniature.”- Sunday Times

“Good new books for children 5 to 8 are rare, and this is one of them. Bearn’s style is as crisp and warm as a home baked biscuit.”- The Times

“Bearn is a fine writer and her tale of how the Nutmouses thwart the vile Ivy is a gently humourous page-turner, full of little details that will appeal to children who enjoy small world play but are too young for the Borrowers.” –Financial Times magazine

“Perfect bedtime reading” – Angels and Urchins

Recommended reading after these (some more suitable as “read alouds”):

  • The borrowers by Mary Norton
  • Books by E.B. White (Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Webb)
  • The sheep pig (Babe) by Dick King-Smith
  • Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
  • The wind in the willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • The miraculous journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
  • The rescuers by Margery Sharp


Series website: http://www.tumtumandnutmeg.co.uk/index.htm (lots of great material here including an interactive chapter sampler)