The axolotl is one of my favorite animals ever. It was one of those creatures that I'd see and want, but I never knew the name of it until just a few years ago. They're very popular little animals and for some reason, don't get much attention in any form of media! A couple of weeks ago this book popped up as a recommendation when I logged in and I ordered it right away. Luckily, it's a very cute book with nice illustrations, sure to spark the interest of any child who might not know much about the little guys.
Spike thinks he's a monster. He has spikes/horns, stubby teeth and slithery tail, and tries to be ferocious. Unfortunately, he's only big enough to sit on a lily pad. None of the other animals are scared of him at all. One day, a real monster comes by, and scares away the others, but not Spike. It's a Gila Monster and Spike doesn't understand why everyone ran away from it. So Spike does his best to scare it off by showing his teeth, shaking his tail and spikes, and also by splashing around. At the end of his mini-terror attempt, Spike smiles, then asks the Gila Monster if he scared it. The monster replies that he wasn't scared, and Spike is saddened. Before Spike can go away, the monster asks him for directions because he's lost. Why is he so kind to Spike?
Because no one ever smiled at him before.
The monster thanks Spike for the help and goes on his way. The other animals come back and are happy for Spike too, asking him how he survived the encounter. Spike just smiles.
It might not be the most original story, but Spike the Mixed-up Monster is incredibly cute and features a couple of animals you don't regularly see in kid's books. I mean come on- when was the last time you saw a book with an axolotl as the main, or even secondary character? The illustrations are large and take up most of the page, and the facial expressions on the characters are great.
The book also has a bit of Spanish, which may or may not appeal to some. I like it when a kid's book takes time to incorporate another language into it, but here it seems a little much. For example, when talking about the other animals they constantly use "el" before the animal's name. If you're going to say the name of the animal in Spanish (like "pato"), I can understand that, but you're using "the" all the time in English up until that point, so why change it then? Aside from that, most of the Spanish is basic like gracias, adios and a couple of other common words. This is just me nitpicking and shouldn't ruin the reading for your child. I wonder how the full Spanish version of this book is now though.
My little gripe aside, Spike the Mixed-up Monster is definitely a book we'll be reading for a long time. An added bonus is the last couple of pages that explain what the animals in the book are, including a full page on axolotls. Hopefully this book gets more attention and we'll be seeing more of the little creatures in other books too!