At first this looks like one of those stories where the scary beast really isn’t, but it turns out the creature aptly named Spiky really is as bad as he looks.
Brown, spiny Spiky is so ugly he’s almost cute, with his googly eyes, exaggeratedly pursed lips, and absurdly skinny arms and hands. Some of the stuff he does doesn’t really seem so bad, like sticking his tongue out at trees, but some of it really is, such as pulling wings off butterflies, which jars readers out of initial levity. In a rather strange turn of events, his spikes fall off and he finds himself smooth, pink, and defenseless. There’s no reason stated for this or for how or why his spikes regrow, but during his time without them, he must learn how to get along with other creatures. Once his spikes regrow, he’s confused about how to act but ends up remaining his nicer self. Details in the digitally rendered art add amusement; from the fact that his houseplants are all cactuses to the mice—or perhaps tiny, frowning hedgehogs—running around his house also being spiky. Unfortunately, Spiky is bad and mean at first when he’s brown; he’s not mean or threatening when his skin is pink, which delivers a distressing, disturbing subtext.
Despite potentially appealing art and a worthwhile anti-bullying theme, friendship and coming-of-age stories are better done elsewhere. (Picture book. 3-6)