Hello, friends! Our book today is Spiky, written and illustrated by Ilaria Guarducci and translated by Laura Watkinson, the tale of a troublesome creature.
Spiky is aptly named; for one, he is covered in sharp spikes, and for another, he is as nasty as can be. He spends his days roaming the forest and terrorizing the other creatures: he steal snacks, captures birds, and teases everyone. He’s perfectly content being the meanest, spikiest fellow in the forest… that is, until the day that Spiky’s spikes all fall off! Suddenly he is pink, naked, and defenseless to the teasing of the animals he previously bullied. Feeling lost, he runs into a bunny, who invites him for a nice walk and chat. And without cause to be nasty anymore, Spiky begins to open up to friendship. So, what happens when his spikes suddenly grow back?
Usually JJ and I have similar feelings towards books, but this was a rare case of disagreement. JJ loved Spiky, from his name to his antics, and was very pleased. I, on the other hand… While I understand what the book is going for, the character design, themes, and perhaps translation came together to create a few moments that felt vaguely weird to me as an adult. For instance, the explicit recounting of Spiky committing acts of animal abuse (tearing off butterfly wings, poking holes in the shells of snails, etc) is played for laughs; at the end, snails are implied to still deserve abuse because they’re “slim”. Moreover, a sequence in which pink, naked, and vulnerable Spiky is taken in by a friendly family of bunnies is sweet, right up until the page devoted to showing how Spiky, without his spikes, can now be physically close to others, and how “good” it feels. Since he is also repeatedly referred to as being nude, this emphasis on physical touch has a subtext that set off my mom alarm a bit. Another reviewer mentioned the classic and problematic trope of dark skin=bad, light skin=good, also making an appearance. So I’m conflicted. JJ loved the story, but I don’t know how comfortable I feel reading it to her again, or recommending it here. So I’ll say to perhaps read it and form your own opinions – but it won’t be getting our seal of approval.
(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)