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Score One for the Sloths


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Helen Lester and Lynn Munsinger have collaborated on many funny and popular books for children, including the stories starring Tacky the Penguin and Wodney Wat, as well as the new Laugh-Along series. Helen Lester is a full-time writer who makes her home in New York. Lynn Munsinger has lived in Vermont and Connecticut, devoting her time to freelance illustration.

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These propitiously paired collaborators (Hooway for Wodney Wat; Tacky the Penguin) again turn out a comic caper with a subtly delivered moral. Words and pictures set the scene with laugh-out-loud humor as readers meet the pajama-clad, somnambulistic students at Sleepy Valley Sloth School, which is perched on the branches of a tree. "Once in a while the teacher would remember his job and wake up with a lesson" in such demanding subjects as yawning, snoring and rolling over but most of the time "the class just slept." Instead of lunch hour there are "lunch three hours," followed by naptime, study hall (when the sloths fall asleep in a hammock or on the floor, their books covering their faces) and recess (which finds the classmates draped over a swing set, dozing). The dismissal bell rings at 3:00, yet it takes them until dusk to exit (the custodian finally sweeps them out with a broom). Enter Sparky, whose energy and spunk her new classmates find anything but contagious. However, when an inspector comes from the S.O.S. (Society for Organizing Sameness) in the Mammal District and threatens to close down the school, the sloths follow Sparky's cues to successfully perform the required tasks in such a way that they save their school without betraying their true nature. Score another one for Lester and Munsinger. Readers will hope the sloths return for a rematch. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

K-Gr 3-Everything is nice and peaceful at Sleepy Valley Sloth School, with the sloths content in their slothfulness, until Sparky arrives. She is, just as her name would indicate, full of energy, and decidedly unslothlike: "Let's read a story! Hey, we could use a little music!" She soon dubs her classmates "a bunch of bores," as they try to ignore her and continue to nap. When a representative of the S.O.S. (Society for Organizing Sameness)-"a real boar"-arrives to close the school because of its low test scores, it is up to Sparky to save the day. Somehow Munsinger manages to make sloths endearing. The illustrations add delightful comic details that build on the text. For example, the classroom is decorated with the sloths' artful crayon renderings of a pillow, bed, and recliner and the chalkboard reveals they have been counting sheep for the math lesson. The day's schedule lists "nothing" for both the morning and afternoon. Though fans of the Lester/Munsinger team will at least want to consider this one, it is not as successful as Hooway for Wodney Wat (Houghton, 2001). Some of the story lacks logic; it is unclear if anything will change for Sparky after she tricks the boar and the school is allowed to continue. Will she be just as bored with her fellow students or will she become more slothlike? While the art is great, the text relies on easy laughs, perhaps at the expense of the story.-Robin L. Gibson, Perry County District Library, New Lexington, OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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