by Jamie Michalak, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
Candlewick Press, 2009.
Reviewed from copy borrowed from local public library.
Sparky is a turtle who likes to stay inside his shell. Joe is a giraffe who likes to stretch his neck and see the world. When a car appears one day at the famous cage-less zoo where they live, the two set off on the ride of their lives, with Joe behind the wheel and Sparky hanging on for dear life. From the shopping mall to the car wash to the take-out burger joint, Joe and Sparky cause mayhem everywhere they go. Young readers will love sharing the road with this unlikely pair in a string of adventures that are by turns innocent, charming, and laugh-out-loud funny. (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6320071-joe-and-sparky-get-new-wheels)I'm always on the look-out for early readers that are attractive and readable as well as appealing to the first grade crowd. Joe and Sparky fit the bill.
Joe (a giraffe) is the adventurous leader, Sparky (a turtle) would rather sit on his rock in the pond. But Sparky being a good friend, follows along, rather reluctantly, as Joe finds ways to spice up their humdrum existence. The writing is clear and easy to follow and the illustrations are bright and cheerful. The plot lines are appealing, involving a day outside the zoo in a car and the followup (Joe and Sparky, Superstars!) involves discovering one's talents. Character-wise, Joe's enthusiasm and Sparky's love of home make for a pair of endearing characters. Highly recommended as a read-a-loud or for early readers.
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