A stuffed animal and a stick travel around the world by mistake.
Huggie, a blue stuffed animal, and Stick, a wooden stick with a face, arms, and legs, fall out of their boy owner’s backpack into the ocean. They narrate in diary entries, taking turns. Stick’s an eternal optimist, cheerful and oblivious, calling pirates “nice guys in super awesome hats.” In contrast, Huggie’s grumpy, realistic, and perpetually annoyed. Spencer’s pen-and-ink–and-digital art is full of sharp lines and angles, emphasizing exaggerated perspectives and expressions. As the accidental adventurers hop from continent to continent, the places they visit fall into disturbing categories. Australia, Asia, and Africa feature wilderness and animals but neither humans nor industrialization, while Europe and North America feature humans, industrialization, and news media. South America (in text, not pictures) has people who use Stick “as a blowgun to shoot at monkeys and sloths all morning.” Such coding breathes new life into old, inexcusable messages about race and culture. Humor for the butt-jokes crowd and playfulness (“sharks are allergic to stuffed animals”) can’t outweigh the deplorable Western-centric attitudes and one massive geographical misstep: The protagonists fall off an African coast on the right-hand side of a spread into the Atlantic. This misleads readers who don’t know geography yet and confuses those who do. (An only-somewhat-clarifying map on the closing endpapers does not mitigate this fault.) Moreover, the suspension of disbelief demanded by the story is so staggeringly large that it’s distancing.
A worldwide whirlwind that misses the mark. (Picture book. 4-7)