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Sloths, Narwhals, and Llamas… Oh, My!

Posted: January 22, 2019

By: Cristina Bueno, Youth Associate

Sloths and narwhals are two of my absolute favorite animals, and llamas are pretty cool, too. These three animals have been growing in popularity over the last few years with an increasing number of clothes, school supplies, and even books featuring them. Grownups, you may have found your child asking for these creatures, or perhaps you’ve received a baby gift in the form of a mini stuffed sloth. Just a few years ago, it seemed very few people even knew what a sloth or narwhal was.

Here’s some info on these three:

Sloths are slow-moving mammals that spend most of their lives hanging upside down in trees. They live in the tropical rainforests of South America and Central America. Here I am pictured with Xena the Sloth, who visited GEPL in August 2018.

Narwhals (or narwhales) are small Arctic whales that live around Greenland, Canada, and Russia. The male narwhal has a long, spirally twisted tusk that develops from one of their teeth.

Llamas are a South American relative of the camel. They have soft, woolly fleece and can carry 50-75 pounds for up to 20 miles a day.

Unusual creatures like these are a great way to get kids interested in different animals and parts of the world, and maybe even in reading more non-fiction books. You can find books about sloths in J599.313, narwhals in J599.547, and llamas in J636.2966.

With their growing popularity, there are also some great picture books, graphic novels, and fiction books centered on these animals. Two of my favorite picture books about sloths are Sloth at the Zoom by Helaine Becker and The Sloth Who Slowed Us Down by Margaret Wild. In both books, the sloth teaches those around him that slowing down is not a bad thing. Kids can relate to feeling as if they are being rushed around and often long for some undivided attention. Older readers might like the American Girl book Lea Leads the Way by Lisa Yee which is about Lea, a fifth-grader, who discovers a badly injured baby sloth during a hike through the Amazon rainforest.

Narwhal fans should check out the picture book Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima in which Kelp, who was born deep in the ocean, learns why he isn’t exactly like the other narwhals when he discovers a new creature on land that looks like him. Graphic novel fans will like Ben Clanton’s Narwhal and Jelly series where a happy-go-lucky, waffle-loving narwhal and a cynical, no-nonsense jellyfish forge an unlikely friendship and share adventures while exploring the ocean together.

Llama lovers should check out this English/Spanish bilingual version of a classic rhyme. Maria Had Little Llama / Maria Tenia Una Llamita by Angela Dominguez follows a girl named Maria who decides to take her llama to school one day. Another rhyming picture book available in both English and Spanish is called Is Your Mama a Llama? / ¿Tu Mama es Una Llama? by Deborah Guarino. In this book, a young llama asks his friends if their mamas are llamas and finds out that their mothers are other types of animals. Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama series continues in popularity with a Netflix series that debuted in 2018. Books in the series can be found under JP CHARACTERS LLAMA LLAMA and in the Early Readers section.

Overall, these three real-life animals are not just cute and unusual but fun to read about. I think they can also teach us important lessons. Sloths teach us that we should take time to slow down and appreciate the world around us. Narwhals, the unicorns of the sea, teach us that the world is full of magic and wonder. Llamas teach us to know our limits. Fun fact about llamas: if you try to overload a llama with too much weight the llama is likely to lie down or simply refuse to move.

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