My newest PAL Award winning book. “Spike the Mixed-up Monster” is a gem by children’s author, Susan Hood. The darling story of a little salamander, Spike and his unsuccessful attempts to be a scary monster delighted kids as I read it over and over to them! Melissa Sweet’s illustrations capture the spirit of Spike and his adorable friends the duck, armadillo, and vole as they encounter a truly scary monstruo, a Gila Monster. Spike, who is no bigger than a lily pad, is left when his friends scatter, to meet this dangerous lizard alone. It just takes a smile to tame the Gila Monster and make a new friend.

Here’s how I used the book to further language in speech therapy lessons;

  • Discuss and use the rich vocabulary introduced such as slithery tail, spiky crown, stumpy teeth and bared teeth. What else if spiky and slithery? (a sea anemone or a worm?) What droops? Where is scum? When are we tough?
  • Practice speech sounds–splish, splash, splatter, splutter!
  • Learn beginning Spanish words. This would be an ideal book for a bilingual class
  • Build inferential language: talk about how Spike felt on different pages of the book and why? Why was he sad? (because he couldn’t scare anyone). The ending is especially abstract and provides an opportunity for kids to explain why Spike’s friends cheered him for saving them while the truth was that he failed miserably at being a monster and the Gila Monster left happily having made a new friend!
  • Build descriptive language by describing the beautiful watercolor and pencil illustrations throughout the story
  • Relate the story to life. How do you make a friend? What do you do if you are afraid of something or someone? How can you help someone?
  • Listen for facts and discuss the real-life stories of Spike who is an endangered axolotl, the gila monster, Mexican vole and cinnamon teal duck in the non-fiction follow-up at the end of the book.
Let me know how some of you enjoy and use this book with your students.