C K Smouha, illus. Stephen Smith. London: Cicada, hb, 978 1 90871 453 4, 2019, £11.95, 28pp.
Picture book, fiction, 4+ years
Does the way we look affect the way we see ourselves? The wolf of this story would certainly say yes. He was born bad, he looks bad and in turn, he is expected to act bad. But what happens if he wants to radically change?
Wolf, struggling with an identity crisis, wanders in the jungle and asks for advice. Although Leopard confirms his fears explaining that he has to stick with his naturally bad look, there are plenty of other animals who support the opposite based on their own experience. Chameleon changes colours whenever he wants. Caterpillar turns into a butterfly. Mimic Octopus can take the shape of five different sea creatures, whereas Reed Frog can switch genders. Wolf realises that he is not the only one with these concerns. He then becomes comfortable and courageous enough to go into a dressing room and to proudly make a brave change. He finally feels good.
Born bad, like all C K Smouha’s books (Iced Out, Sock Story), celebrates diversity and touches upon controversial topics through a great sense of humour. Given that the story is told mainly through dialogue, it encourages parents/teachers to share it with children and to engage in read-aloud activities. The illustrator, Stephen Smith, takes on the challenge of presenting a friendly wolf and creates vivid high-contrast illustrations, all exciting to look at.
This is a colourful tale with powerful messages that can be discussed by both young and old readers. I would like to close this review with one of my favourite and most representative examples; Seal’s question to the confused Wolf: “What would you like to see when you look at yourself?”
Review by Dr Lina Iordanaki