Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable is an endearing graphic novel suitable for lower elementary readers.
Peter and Ernesto are best friends whose favorite pastime is enjoying hibiscus snacks while gazing at the clouds from the tree where they live. One day, Ernesto decides he wants to see all of the sky and not just the piece he can see from their tree. Peter is not happy with Ernesto’s choice and is worried about the dangers that exist outside their home. Ernesto sets out on an adventure on his own, and meets a friendly cast of characters along the way. After waiting anxiously for Ernesto to come back, Peter decides that he must go to find his friend. He has to brave his fears along the way, but Peter’s determination to help Ernesto, along with the new friends he makes, helps him on his journey.
The simple art, large lettering, and charming characters are similar to some of the newer children’s comics, such as Ben Clanton’s Narwhal and Jelly books. The simplicity of the art does not take away from the expressiveness of the characters. Peter and Ernesto might not look exactly like one would expect a drawing of a sloth to look like, but their characters come to life with a range of emotions they feel through the book, like worry, fear, amazement, happiness, and courage. Ernesto’s sense of wonder at the world is clearly conveyed through his words and also through the illustrations.
The book’s strength lies not only in the art, but also in the positive messages it conveys. The power of friendship is one of the main themes of the book. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone despite the feelings of anxiety that might cause is another. The book illustrates those themes in a supportive, non-judgmental manner. It was easy to empathize with both characters and root for Peter in his brave attempt to move past his fear.
In addition to positive messages, the book holds educational value for elementary grades. Despite the sparse, readable text, the book contains a wide range of great vocabulary words. There is also a section where a friendly camel teaches Ernesto about the constellations while traveling through the desert, with accompanying pictures.
Peter and Ernesto is a good choice for graphic novel collections for elementary school-aged children. A sequel, Peter and Ernesto: The Lost Sloths will be published in 2019.
Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths
by Graham Annable
First Second Books, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 6-10