by Priscilla Gifford & Anne Gifford, illustrator
Age 4 to 8 34 pages
Meet Spike the Dhog, an endearing creature who seems to be part pig, a little bit of hedgehog, and a whole lot of dog. Spike arrives on earth from points unknown. Go with this different fellow as he searches for a welcoming home among birds, fish, turtles, prairie dogs, barn cats and pigs. Follow him as he travels cheerfully through the countryside on his quest to find a home where he will be accepted for who he is. Bright imaginative illustrations by watercolor artist Anne Gifford, with story by her mother, Priscilla Gifford. The creation of our book has been a labor of love for the past 13 years.
After falling from the sky, Spike lands by the stream. He is looking for a happy home and Mr. Moon tells him to follow the stream. Spike encounters various animals asking each one if he may live with them. Each animal agrees. Alas, Spike finds something incompatible that rules out each home as a happy home, so he continues following the stream.
Then there were those animals who were not so hospitable. The cats scare Spike when they hiss and the pigs laugh at Spike’s different appearance. A tall tree rudely refuses to answer Spike’s request. He finds an obliging bear, but Spike cannot sleep all winter and is afraid he cannot keep quiet so the bear and her cub can sleep. Spike is close to giving up when he notices a town. But the town is not much better as they ignore Spike. How could no one along the road not notice an animal as strange looking as Spike the dhog? Dejected, Spike crawls under a bush, shedding tears, wondering if he will ever find his happy home.
Spike the Dhog, from the mother-daughter team of Priscilla and Anne Gifford, is the story of Spike, a strange animal. He looks like an oddity and he is one. The cover does not help this by placing a huge Spike across the moon. If he were a tad smaller, the cover would have worked for me. As is, the cover makes Spike look the size of a cow, or larger, when the story has him more the size of a medium dog. Spike’s tubular body does not help.
Looks are important to the story. Some of the animals do not notice Spike’s odd appearance, inviting him to stay, if he can. Others, like the pigs, laugh at him because he looks different, peculiar, not like “them.” This theme of inclusion is one faced by kids every day:
“Will they let me play with them?”
“Will I be picked first—or last—for the team?”
“Will I be picked on?”
I also like the theme of love. Everyone wants loved, including a strange pig-hog-dog like Spike. Mostly, I like this story, and its star, because it can be difficult to accept Spike’s appearance, making the reader part of the problem and the solution. Teachers can use Spike’s story to help kids get along. How many in the class will be like the bear, hedgehog, or fish and accept others as they are? How many will be cats or pigs and laugh at those they perceive to be different? Who are the tall trees that say nothing, ignoring the “odd one out” altogether. Is anyone Spike?
Spike the Dhog is a story for young kids but the older kids may get more out of this story, especially in a classroom setting. Spike the Dhog speaks of acceptance, or lack thereof, and finding a “happy home”; the place in the world where one belongs. The book is a picture book with interesting illustrations that will have little minds laughing at Spike as he tries to fit into a too small hedgehog hole, try to swim with fish, or attempting to fly like like the magpie who offers Spike shelter . . . in a nest laying on a tall tree’s branch. Spike grows on you with time and reading. Kids will want this odd little story read to them more than once. Spike the Dhog, the debut book by Priscilla and Anne Gifford, is a wonderful start to an imaginative duo’s new career.
Find out more about Spike the Dhog HERE.
Learn more about the author, Priscilla Gifford:
SPIKE THE DHOG. Text copyright © 2013 by Priscilla Gifford. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Anne Gifford. Reproduce by permission of the publisher, Priscilla Gifford, Boulder CO.