#1298 – SAM THE SPEEDY SLOTH by Matthew Ralph & Khansa Dewi Karima


SERIES:  Proud to Be Unique #1
Written by Matthew Ralph
Illustrated by Khansa Dewi Karima
Publisher 9/15/2019
42 Pages   Age 4—8
.     .       .        .DEBUT

Genre:  Children’s Picture Book, Fiction
Themes: Self-Acceptance, Having Fun


Note:  Author Matthew Ralph’s contact information was incorrect and now changed to the proper url. Please only use this new link to learn more about the author.


Sam the Sloth is different from the other sloths:  he loves to run around fast!

He goes on an adventure in the rainforest, challenging the other animals to a race. Sam learns some important lessons along the way about being unique, and not comparing yourself to others.

You will also find a bunch of fun activities, including spot the difference, a word search, and even fact files for all of the animals in the story. (from back cover)

Opening Sentences

“In the rainforests of South America deep,
Lives a curious creature most often asleep.
It naps in the day and slumbers all night,
A fast-moving sloth is an unusual sight.”

Why I like Sam the Speedy Sloth

Sloths are notoriously slow creatures. Really slow. But don’t tell Sam. Sam thinks he is a fast sloth, and by sloths’ terms he certainly is, but what about against a monkey, a catfish, or a jaguar? Can he beat those creatures in a race? This is not the story of the hare versus the tortoise. Sam the sloth is up on two feet, running with his arms swinging, just like a pro. He loves to have fun and fun to Sam is running. He never turns down a race.

A race up a tree proves too much for Sam, who is quickly defeated by a monkey. Undeterred, Sam keeps walking through his jungle home until he gets to the lake. A fat catfish sees Sam, who challenges the snarky fish to “a swim.” Sam belly-flops into the water and the two are off with the catfish taking an early and decisive lead. The snarky bottom-feeder, who likes to laugh—“Tee hee!”—outswims Sam.

Sam is drying himself and his bruised ego when he spots a cave. Inside is a small jaguar. Sam considers the jaguar’s eating habits then challenges her to “a chase” despite the carnivore possibilities. There is no surprise ending. Sam is handily beaten by the cat. Back home, Same tells mom all about his day.

Sam’s mom hugged him and looked at her son.
“There’s no one like you, you’re the only one.
Comparing yourself to others, won’t get you far.
Learn to love how unique you are.”

Sam the Speedy Sloth is written in 4-line verses or Quatrain. The structure consists of two rhyming couplets per verse in the pattern AABB. The first two stanzas give a quick study on sloths and the third introduces Sam. From there the story takes over until the end.

The rhyming is good, but with a few slanted rhymes and a quirky line or two. Tenses become mixed. The story starts in the present tense, but once Sam is off and running, it moves into past tense. As a whole, Sam the Speedy Sloth is fun, with interesting words and characters.

Sam is a cheerful-looking fellow who likes to travel on two feet, not four. He knows he can beat some animals and not others, but keeps trying. Sam the sloth learns he is unique when he goes off into the jungle for some fun. He races a monkey up a tree, swims the lake against a catfish, and races a jaguar—a girl— losing all three races. He tells his mother,

“I guess I’m different,” he said so glum,
“I’m faster than many but slower than some.”

Sam knows he is different, which is very true. Most sloths sleep away the day and only leave their tree home for bathroom duty. Sam, he prefers to be up and running through the jungle, either in a race or by himself. He just wants to run.  Sam is faster than many but slower than some.” If a young child has learned about sloths, they will think Sam has this backwards. Sam may be slower than many, but faster than some. Today, Sam lost all three races, which doesn’t help his declaration of speed to mom.

The story ends with a lesson. Mom tells Sam not to compare himself to others. Instead, he needs to learn to love himself and his uniqueness, rather than worry how he compares to others—including speed. Good advice for anyone, especially a growing child susceptible to comparing grades, talents, likes, and just about anything in their lives. Yet wonder:  how else does one know if they are good at something if not by comparing? Without an argument, Sam agrees with mom, cheers up, and runs back out into the jungle for “more fun.”

Maybe this is being a bit picky, but how does one challenge another to a race? Sam said, “Would you like a race” not, “Would you like to race? Saying a race” sounds like Sam is trying to give the monkey something, not challenge him to race. But the monkey gets it and races up the tree (not across the jungle floor). Sam asks the jaguar, “I don’t suppose you would like a chase?” A chase? A chase does not imply a race, it implies one running ahead of the other who will chase after, not race ahead.

Last, Sam asking the catfish, “Would you like a swim,” reminds me of someone asking if the other wants to go swimming. Clearly the catfish has no other option but to swim. Yet it replies, “There’s no way that you’ll ever beat me.” How did it know Sam meant a race, not just a swim? If Sam asks a bird, “Would you like a fly?” The bird might say, “No, I prefer worms,” but I doubt he would consider it a race.

The specific words and the order (a race, a chase, a swim), may have been chosen to make a rhyme, to avoid using the word ‘race’ three times, or is simply the author’s cultural way of speaking. All good reasons, but will the young child understand?

The illustrations clearly tell Sam’s story. All the animals look charming and happy to be in the rainforest. The jaguar does lick her lips upon meeting Sam, but no violence occurs despite Sam’s worries. Children will like the art which is clear and colorful. Sam looks a bit like a pellet with legs, his head and body melting into each other. Or maybe he is wearing a brown full-body suit that allows only his face to be seen. With the brown around his eyes, extending to each ear, Sam looks to be wearing a mask. Children might think Sam is a superhero. Maybe in one of the next stories, he will be a hero. Sam the Speedy Sloth is book one of a series titled Proud to Be Unique. Diversity, differences seen as positives, and liking yourself, regardless of what others may say, seem to be a big part of this series.

Sam the Speedy Sloth is a fun, cheerful story of a super sloth who runs instead of sleeps, taking on other animals to prove to himself he is as fast as he believes he is. The lesson teaches kids not to compare themselves to others and to love themselves and who they are. In a world where most things seem like a competition, this is a lesson not to be forgotten. Book 2 in the series (available now) is Playtime in the Rainforest

Back Matter

After the story there are three activities for children:  Find the Fruit, Spot the 10 Differences, and Word Search. There is also an answer key. The author has written a few things about the four main animals in Sam the Speedy Sloth: sloth, monkey, catfish, and jaguar. For each he answers three questions (“What do they look like?, Where do they live?, What do they eat?”) and then adds a few “Fun Facts.”

Illustrations Rendered in digital.

To Learn More About the Author: www.mattralphthewriter.com

To Learn More About the Illustrator:  @khansadewi  (Twitter)

Available at Amazon:  Sam the Speedy Sloth

SAM THE SPEEDY SLOTH (Proud to Be Unique #1). Text Copyright © 2020 by Matthew Ralph. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Khansa Dewi Karima. Published by Matthew Ralph Publishing.


Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
[1049-word count—review only]

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NEXT UP: PB – Stanley’s Fire Engine by William Bee – Peachtree Publishing

AND THEN: PB – I Love My Fangs by Kelly Leigh Miller – Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers



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