Spike the Mixed-up Monster

By Susan Hood • Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books • 2012 • 40 pages
Hardcover ($16.99)
ISBN: 978-1442406018
Ages 4-8

Meet Spike, the axolotl, and his three amigos—a duck, an armadillo, and a Mexican vole. Author Susan Hood brings a unique protagonist to the picture book scene by choosing to focus on a critically endangered species. Likewise, illustrator Melissa Sweet has taken something truly monstrous looking—a wide-headed salamander with external gills that look like spikes—and turned it into a charming, freckled character. Together, they weave a simple plot around the loveable salamander.

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Spike is convinced that he is a scary monster, but when he bares his teeth, his friends confuse his snarl for a smile. When he encounters a large Gila monster, Spike discovers that maybe, being not so scary is not so bad after all.

The book triumphantly depicts the power of a smile, and young readers will positively respond to its focus on friendship and message that appearances can be deceiving. Spanish words are interspersed throughout the story and a glossary that translates them is provided at the back of the book, along with detailed information about each of the creatures presented.

Reviewed by Kacy Vega, Coordinator, Leaps and Bounds, Arizona State University