Children might enjoy the myriad pictures of cute critters in this photo essay set at the Aviarios del Caribe sloth sanctuary, but it’s not likely they’ll sit still long enough to listen to the text.
Zoologist and videographer Cooke has already successfully expressed her support for sloths in several media. An online video she created was well-received and has spawned a film documentary, which will be expanded into an eight-part series next year. Unfortunately, what works well online—or even on the (big or small) screen—isn’t as successful on the page. The photos are crisp and clear, but they feature too many repetitive images. After the first few pages, it’s hard to tell one cute sloth clutching a tree, cuddling or snoozing, from another, despite the fact that Cooke informs readers that sloths belong to two different families (the Bradypus family and the Choloepus), distinguished by the number of claws they have and differences in color and size. The episodic text, overly precious descriptions and self-consciously humorous, adultcentric tone do nothing to strengthen the child appeal. Occasional Briticisms (“pop down to the shops”) and pop-culture references (“Baby sloths are Jedi masters of the hug”—irritatingly, Wookiee is misspelled) run the risk of further distancing young (American) listeners.
While Cooke’s intentions are commendable, the main message she unintentionally conveys is that too much cuteness can be cloying—and counterproductive. (Informational picture book. 6-8)