A lost cat, a sloth, and a cellphone combine to create a rhyming adventure in this debut picture book.
Purrball the cat looks forward to moving to Brazil with his best friend and human, Darryl. After a long flight riding at Darryl’s (smelly) feet, Purrball is eager to leave the plane. He and his caretaker ride the terminal shuttle, using Darryl’s mom’s phone to keep busy. But when they arrive at the terminal, the whole world shakes: it’s an earthquake! The terrified Purrball bolts, with the cellphone and charging cable wrapped around his leg. Soon, Purrball has no idea where he is, until he encounters a Brazilian native: a three-toed sloth. This charmingly illustrated fellow, created using primarily basic shapes but with some lovely furry details that add character, insists that Purrball not worry. Purrball, comforted, names his friend Burrball, after the burrs the cat sometimes finds stuck in his fur. When Purrball notices Burrball’s clever claws, the feline comes up with an idea: the sloth can text Darryl to come to the rescue. After a frustratingly timed battery outage and an encounter with tourists more interested in selfies with a lost cat, sloth, and cellphone, the two animals finally reach a cafe where they can plug in and wait for help to arrive. While the rhythm of the rhyming lines sometimes falters and the rhyming words don’t always move the story or scene forward (“I found myself in the middle of nowhere I knew. / I was surrounded by darkness from trees that grew”), the instant friendship between cat and sloth remains utterly enjoyable, and the integration of familiar technology should appeal to young readers used to having parents’ cellphones on hand for any boredom emergency. Zoet’s computer-designed illustrations have a lot of child appeal, with the effective use of color, delightful integration of rain-forest animals, and a wonderfully diverse human cast in the background.
While the uneven cadence may pose a challenge for parents reading aloud to a young audience, this animal escapade should elicit plenty of giggles from confident independent readers in lower elementary school.