A Tiger Like Me (Michael Engler)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Tiger Like Me, written by Michael Engler, illustrated by Joëlle Tourlonias, and translated by Laura Watkinson.

From the time the first rays of sunlight hit his eyes to the time he tucks in again for bed, a little tiger – who is actually a little boy in a collection of tiger costumes – is on the move. First, he greets the day with his fearsome roar, on to a nourishing breakfast (tiger-themed cereal, naturally), then he’s ready for a day of exploring, adventuring, causing mischief, and learning. He hides in a basket of laundry that substitutes for jungle brush – that is, until he gets stuck and calls for help from his tiger-mom and tiger-dad. Hunting hapless toys, frolicking in the snow, even cozying into his tiger-parents’ “den” for snuggles at day’s end, there’s nothing this little tiger can’t handle.

Adorable. Originally written in German, this playful look at a child’s imagination in their daily routine is a treat, both for the silly and sometimes naughty antics of the tiger-boy that will delight little bookworms, and the winks and nods at the familiar frustrations and rewards of parenting for caregivers (whose child DOESN’T go through a phase like the boy’s?). The text can be a little dense, yet flows beautifully, with a poetic rhythm that punches up the dynamic moments and soothes during the quieter ones. The illustrations rely a little heavily on muddled browns and greens, and can be a bit busy at times; however, in spreads like the young tiger waking up in a forest of his own imagining, or snuggling in bed with his tired yet devoted parents, it’s downright beautiful. Better for slightly older bookworms in terms of length, though JJ enjoyed it immensely throughout. Overall, a sweet treat for little pretenders everywhere – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Spiky (Ilaria Guarducci)

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.)