July 17, 2020

Peter & Ernesto: Sloths in the Night

Written and illustrated by Graham Annable
First Second
128 pp.
Ages 6-10
April 2020

Peter and Ernesto, the two sloths from Graham Annable's first two books, A Tale of Two Sloths and The Lost Sloths, return to bring us another wonderfully heart-warming tale of friendship from deep in the tropical jungle.
From Peter & Ernesto: Sloths in the Night by Graham Annable
Peter, the more cautious of the two sloths, is trying out his new wind sock, made from fabric their sloth tree mate Bernard had found. Sadly there is no wind but Ernesto, always up for an adventure, wants to go check out a dragon that the motmots assure him has been seen at the spooky old temple by the river.  Not surprising that when the sloths discover Bernard is missing, Ernesto is convinced their friend has gone to see the dragon because, of course, that's what Ernesto wants to do.
From Peter & Ernesto: Sloths in the Night by Graham Annable
Even though the cautious Peter isn't convinced, he and the other three sloths (Stu, Rodrigo and Lola) follow Ernesto, meeting a swooping bat who warns them to be careful in the Dark Glades on the way to the temple. Though an owl, who thinks the sloths are very large mice, causes some consternation for the five sloths, a meeting with a polka-dot tree frog becomes a magical experience when he and his friends light the way for the sloths through the blackness of the Dark Glades.
From Peter & Ernesto: Sloths in the Night by Graham Annable
But getting through the Dark Glades is but one step in their search for Bernardo and/or the dragon at the temple, and it takes a turn when Peter falls from a broken zip line.  As Ernesto and the three sloths find their way to the temple and make the acquaintance of a different kind of dragon, Peter is meeting a river otter who is rebuilding a boat.  When everyone finally comes together, with new friends made, new alliances forged, and songs sung to ease their journeys, Peter and Ernesto and friends discover Bernard had found shelter and comfort far closer to home than anticipated.

Because the text is very light and much of the story is carried by the illustrations, Sloths in the Night is a great reading bridge between early reader and middle grade. Regardless of the austerity of his words, animator and cartoonist Graham Annable approaches the big issue of fears–of the darkness, of the unknown and even the known–with sensitivity, acknowledging that fears are very personal and cannot be disregarded just because another finds them unbelievable. As different as Peter and Ernesto are, they recognize the strengths and weaknesses in each other, appreciating attributes they themselves do not possess and accepting these differences as strengths. Even more endearing is the empathy they show to others, whether it be a homesick dragon or an otter with wanderlust, as well as to each other.
From Peter & Ernesto: Sloths in the Night by Graham Annable
Graham Annable has created another modest story in Peter & Ernesto: Sloths in the Night. It's modest in its messaging and matrix of story i.e. words and art. But it's also bold and assured in addressing the nature of fear and the power of friends to help. Like the polka-dot tree frog, Sloths in the Night illuminates the way through.
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Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths (2018)

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