As long as there have been children's picture books, there have been talking animals. Talking animals and their equally talkative friends. Who wear clothes. Or possibly ride bikes. Or go to school. So ubiquitous are our fictional, anthropomorphized friends, that we hardly notice the trends in popularity of certain animals over the years.
Bunnies were a beloved subject in the early years of the picture book. Ducklings too. There was the exotic animal and insect trend of the eighties. The great llama and wombat crazes of the 2000's. Bears and dogs never really go out of style. Last year was a particularly good one for not-quite-animals: friendly monsters, aliens, zombies and the like. This year, the sweet and humble porcupine seems poised for takeoff.
When publishers release their catalogs for the season, I can't help but flip through and notice which animals have fallen out of favor and the new ones who are taking center stage. Who will be next? Last night, after watching these adorable videos about a pair of twin sloths in Costa Rica for the four hundred millionth time, it finally hit me: SLOTHS. At least I hope so. Where are all the sloth picture books?! Think of all the untapped picture-book-potential in those huggable, plucky (and endangered) little creatures.
Sure, "Slowly, Slowly , Slowly," Said the Sloth, by Eric Carle is a classic. The lesser known but totally hilarious, Slow Loris, by Alexis Deacon, has always been a Green Bean favorite, even if it isn't exactly about a sloth. Last year saw the release of Wake Up, Sloth!, a gorgeous, imported pop-up book by Anouck Boisrobert that does a wonderful job of explaining habitat loss to little ones.
But there aren't many others. The majority seem interested only in the sloth's pokey nature (for obvious reasons). But did you know that sloths also love to hug things? And that rescued babies like to clutch stuffed animals at all times in lieu of their mothers? Or that they are amazing climbers? Untapped potential, I say. Let's hope the picture book folks are listening, because:
Do you have a favorite underrepresented animal? Hedgehogs? Lizards? Worms? Which animals do you think deserve a little time in the spotlight?