Myra here.

Widget courtesy of the talented Iphigene.
Widget courtesy of the talented Iphigene.

Part of our current reading theme this January-February gives love to CYBILS. I am privileged to once again be among the Second Round Judges for the Fiction Picture Book Category along with several other amazing kidlit enthusiasts.

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Second Round Judges for Fiction Picture Books 2014

Julie Larios
Books Around the Table

Dawn Mooney
5 Minutes for Books

Jennifer Reed

Julie Rowan-Zoch
Julie Rowan-Zoch

Currently, I am going through the books that have been nominated but didn’t make it to the Top Seven for Second Round Judging. Here are two that I feel would resonate with a lot of children.

IMG_9021Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Written and Illustrated by: Barney Saltzberg
Published byDisney Hyperion Books, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Unlike children who have to be forced to go to bed, the adorable panda named Chengdu wants so desperately to go to sleep but simply couldn’t. He tosses and turns, he scrunches and rolls, but is still unable to find that perfect spot to finally sleep. If I were there, I would have taught him to count sheep, but then again, perhaps it’s not a panda thing.

I like how everything around Chengdu is depicted to be quiet and peaceful – everything at rest except himself.


The illustrations have that zen, relaxing quality about it, except that they are not enough to make Chengdu fall asleep. There was one full page illustration that I thought to be quite brilliant:


I also enjoyed the interactive quality of the book with the page flaps that are of different sizes which I predict would be quite a hit with younger children. Whether or not Chengdu eventually falls asleep, I shall leave for you to discover.


Written byJenny Offill Illustrated By: Chris Appelhans
Published by: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Who would have thought of having a sloth for a pet? Only this little girl, our unnamed heroine, who has tricked her mother into agreeing to get a pet so long as “it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed.” With the help of of the librarian, Mrs. Kinklebaum, who predictably knows everything there is to know about the world, the little girl found out that there is one such animal who fits the criteria her mother has laid out:


The girl’s animal companion arrived via Express Mail, and the girl does everything imaginable to make Sparky the most extraordinary Sloth ever. This is naturally driven by her desire to showcase Sparky’s tricks and smarts to the evidently-perfect and immensely-annoying Mary Potts who seem to be thoroughly unimpressed by this pet sloth.


And so the young girl takes it upon herself to train her sloth in seven days to come up with the most amazing tricks ever – countless tricks in fact! As I read through the story, I was not just moved by the brilliance of the text but also by the sparse palette used by the illustrator (reminiscent of Klassen’s Extra Yarn or House Held Up by Trees) and the way they complemented each other so beautifully to share a story that grows in depth with every retelling.


It speaks of realistic expectations, the value of perseverance, and being grounded on the very basic nature of things – and how things can still be okay despite all that. Whether or not Sparky learnt any amazing tricks, I shall leave for you to discover. Easily one of my favourites from the picturebooks published in 2014.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

2 comments on “[Hot for Cybils] Chengdu and Sparky!

  1. These both sound charming – I know a pet sloth story would have appealed to my younger son when he was small!


  2. That. Is. Awesome! Sparky and Clyde (our Basset Hound) would get along so well! They could do competitive sleeping! 😉


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