cover image Spike, the Mixed-Up Monster

Spike, the Mixed-Up Monster

Susan Hood, illus. by Melissa Sweet. S&S/Wiseman, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4424-0601-8

Odd-looking little Spike, who lives in a pond in Mexico, is a fierce monster in his own mind. But to everyone else in his ecosystem, Spike is a harmless cutie-pie (he’s actually an axolotl, an endangered Mexican salamander). El pato (a duck) calls him “my funny little fish face,” While el campañol (a vole) says, “You’re almost as adorable as me!” They all change their tune, however, when Spike stands up to a real monster—a Gila monster, to be precise—although readers know that the two creatures actually part ways as amigos. Unfortunately, this story of a mixed-up monster is a mixed bag itself. Sweet (Mrs. Harkness and the Panda) has created wonderful watercolor portrayals of every critter (her Gila monster is positively majestic) with one exception: the clunky hero, who never coalesces artistically (his head looks like a big smiley face) or in terms of personality. As for the Mexican setting, Hood (Pup and Hound) doesn’t make much of it except for a sprinkling of mostly familiar Spanish words. Ages 4–8. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. Illustrator’s agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (Sept.)