November 06, 2015

Kyle Goes Alone

by Jan Thornhill
Illustrated by Ashley Barron
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
August, 2015

Kyle is a three-toed sloth and he’s used to his mother taking him down from the top of the rainforest canopy all the way down to the ground for his once a week toileting.  But his mom decides that he’s old enough to go alone.
“You can do it, “ said his mom.
“I’ll be right here if you need me.”
And slowly, the way sloths always move, Kyle makes his way down , always wondering if he should turn back.  Except he really has to go.  And, even though he can’t always see her, she’s watching him from between the leaves, reassuring him that he’s doing well.

But, Kyle looks around and feels alone in that ominous way that only a child who has always clung to his mother can feel.  “But I’m all alone!” cried Kyle, repeatedly, and surprisingly he is always answered with, “No, you’re not.”  First, it’s a beautiful red-speckled parrot.  Then, further down, it’s a green and yellow whipsnake, and then a tiger-legged monkey tree frog and a leaf-cutting ant.  By the time he reaches the bottom and “goes”, Kyle is smiling, proud of himself for what he has accomplished.  And finds out his mother is still there for him when he needs her, regardless of the fact that Kyle Goes Alone now.

If this was a YA book, it would be considered a coming-of-age story because that’s what it is for Kyle: he’s coming of an age when he needs to become independent of his mother.  It just happens that this independence is related to toileting!  And there’s lots to learn about it from Jan Thornhill, whose wealth of non-fiction attests to her scientific knowledge.  So in addition to this charming story that parents will want to share with their children, especially those who are being toilet-trained, Jan Thornhill provides “The Poop about Three-toed Sloths” as well as about “Camouflage: Hiding in Plain Sight.”  Read, learn, enjoy.

But wait until you take in Ashely Barron’s breath-taking paper-collage illustrations that pop from the page.  I am red-faced that I’d missed including this talented artist in my posts about youngCanLit illustrators. Her ability to create textured rainforests and colourful creatures from cut-paper is astounding.  If you check out Ashley Barron's blog at, you can watch her create Kyle.  While her workmanship is astonishing, her choice and creation of colourful papers is just as dazzling.  You'll see Kyle’s expresssion change from fearful grimaces to proud grins as he travels down the tree, but so too do the colours of the landscape change from the cool colours of fear to the sun-dappled greens and turquoises of hope and success.

Kyle Goes Alone is an triumph of storytelling, blending scientific non-fiction, collage artistry and sloth-pooping, thanks to Jan Thornhill, Ashley Barron and, of course, Kyle.


  1. Helen, thank you for reading and reviewing Kyle Goes Alone! Your description of the forest colours changing with the mood is so on key. I couldn't have explained it better! Thank you for noticing! :)

  2. Thanks a million, Helen! You totally nailed it about Ashley's uber-brilliant art!