Wednesday, November 16, 2016

With All Deliberate Speed! Mervin the Sloth Is About To Do the Best Thing in the World by Colleen AF Venable



While Mervin seemingly stands motionless, monumental block letters drop one by one onto the page, stating that Mervin the sloth is about to do the best thing in the world.

Clearly Mervin is not the most demonstrative of buddies, but his friends are intrigued. Raccoon is impressed with Mervin's cool promo. Just then Bird soars into the scene and with a THWACK collides with the giant M.


Immediately Raccoon and Bird begin to speculate about what best thing Mervin is about to do.

Bird declares that it is, of course, flying, but two gophers pop out of their burrows and declare that the best thing is definitely digging. Gazelle leaps about the page and demonstrates his choice--gazelling!

Bird doubts there is even such a word.

Soon there is a crowd of curious critters in a crush around the apparently still sloth--all speculating just what amazing deed Mervin will do. Will he do all their homework? Invent the way-back machine? They mill around, gesturing and postulating.

But Mervin's pals can't perceive any progress toward the occurrence of the purported Best Thing any time soon. They gradually drift off to pursue their own passions, flying, digging, and gazelling, whatever that is, all but the stalwart Red Panda.

It's a moving experience, and for Mervin the Sloth that's a big deal!

Red Panda perseveres and is rewarded in the fullness of sloth time, in Colleen AF Venable's new Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World (HarperCollins, 2016), earning himself the payoff for his patience.

Author Venable pared-down narration builds the suspense, but the payoff for the reader lies in artist Ruth Chan's deliberate draftsman-like drawings. Very observant readers may perceive infinitesimal changes in Mervin's seeming immobile body on each successive page, as slowly, S-L-O-W-L-Y, his arms rise to get ready for the best thing in the world. To get a hug from a sloth takes time, but apparently it's worth it. All things come to him who waits, and persistent and sharp-eyed primary grade readers will get the last big laugh. "...[The] cartoon choreographing of the argumentative cast crackle with silly energy," remarks Kirkus Reviews.

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