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Saturday, August 31, 2013


Several years ago, my friend Debra and I were eating lunch at a favorite restaurant. She presented the two books on which she was working and wanted me to tell her which one I felt had the most potential. There was not a doubt in my mind. It was Spike: Ugliest Dog in the Universe. I could imagine reading it aloud to children. I envisioned children checking it out and experiencing the emotions I had. I love the story wholeheartedly. I still cry at the same spot each time.

Spike is a dog with a message: "Get to know me! I'm good-hearted. Loyal. Smart. If you could see inside my heart, you'd say...beautiful." His awful owner sees only Spike's exterior and leaves him by the roadside one day. A boy named Joe finds Spike and recognizes the dog's beautiful qualities. He even takes him home to be his own dog. But, like in most families, Joe's desire to keep Spike did not align with his mom's reasons for not having a dog. Alas, there is conflict. Spike tries desperately to be more likable. I will end there so as not to spoil the beautiful ending for you.

As if the story were not enough, the artwork is ingenious.  Some of it is created from well-loved and worn denim (most of it donated by friends). Some is cut from the hanging sheets of Canson paper in her studio. The extravagant cat named Evangeline is cut from a wedding dress (purchased from Goodwill)! Ripped pockets hold words. Frayed edges form the borders for characters. Hems line the page gutters and mark scenes. There is not another book like it, and Spike definitely gets the prize for the best illustration description on the CIP page:
          "The illustrations for this book are collaged with Cansons papers, used clothing, and   
         worn blue jean pieces. The heans were fathered from friends, students, coffee shop 
        comrades, and thrift stores, as well as the author-illustrator's own collection. Bits and 
       pieces of paper, cloth, and denim were adhered to cut-to-size Styrofoam garage door 
       insulation with pins and repositionable glue, then photographed with a Hasselblad 501C 
       with a LEAF APTUS 65 digital back. The digital files were adjusted in Photoshop."

Though Spike does not officially appear in bookshops until October 1st, copies were available at the Alphabet Forest at the Minnesota State Fair. Mine is sitting on my lap as I type. I'm glad to finally have it in hand.


  1. An intriguing story that appeals to both children and adults!

  2. Oh, I love this! At some libraries here they have Reading Dogs, do you have that where children sit & read to a dog at the public library? The Alphabet Fair: I am sooooooooo excited about working up that project here, Thank You! Do you know, I'm sure you do, Max's Words? A favorite.

  3. Can't wait to see it, having heard about it in progress. Debra is so lucky to have a sounding board in you.

  4. I was so happy to finally read SPIKE at the State Fair. You said it: clever, creative, and moving. Congratulations, Debra. This book is going to be read by a lot of children (including my great nieces).