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Saturday, October 26, 2013

When Reviews are Wrong #2

A crowd gathered this afternoon at the Red Balloon Bookshop to celebrate the publication of Spike: Ugliest Dog in the Universe. It is the story of a dog whose awful owner abandons him after the dog wins the Ugliest Dog in the Universe contest. Joe, the boy who lives next door, befriends Spike and tries to convince his mother they should adopt the dog. Spike does all he can to be the best dog possible, even taking lessons from Evangeline, the cat next door. When his doggy skills save her life, Joe's mom acknowledges his beauty, calling him the most beloved dog in the world. Having watched this book evolve from idea to completion, it was a pleasure to observe the awe of audience members as she read the story and showed the unique illustrations (created from well-worn denim, a wedding dress, and Canson paper, mounted on garage door insulation).

Once again, I was disappointed to read the review of the book in School Library Journal. The reviewer completely missed the point of the book! He noted that "the background is made from torn old jeans, and although the artist uses them creatively, it's questionable whether they add anything to the piece." He contradicted himself earlier by saying, "Characters are crafted from fabric and paper with mixed results." The whole idea of well-loved, well-worn jeans is that they are still beautiful to the wearer (as shown by the pair of jeans that inspired her, shown on the jacket flap). Debra craftily combined the best holes in the denim with images of Spike and key words. The message that it is what is inside a person (or canine) is beautiful shines through in Spike. The reviewer wrote that "the story feels overcomplicated and convoluted" but apparently missed the ideas of friendship, fitting in, and finding one's own worth.

At the beginning of the story, Spike says, "If you could see inside my heart, you'd say...beautiful." I do say that...about Spike, Joe, and Debra's work on this book.


  1. That reviewer obviously did not have the sensitivity to details that you demostrate in your own review. Carry on; we love your reviews!

  2. I second what Kate said! The use of torn jeans adds depth to the book and is inherently important. Debra clearly thought carefully about her choice of art materials.