Flea and Spikeyby Pieter Koolwijk, Linde Faas (Illustrations)

Published by Lemniscaat USA (English translation to be published April 1st 2017)

4.5 Stars

Synopsis: Meet Floyd, otherwise known  as Flea. He’s not so brave, rather small, and constantly being hassled by Arnold the bully. His life isn’t very exciting until a new student joins his class. A petite girl with colorful clothes.

With a broad grin on her freckled face she surveyed the classroom. Her eyes twinkled. All the prying eyes and gaping mouths didn’t seem to bother her at all. On the contrary, she seemed to enjoy all the attention. ‘This is Phoebe,’ said Mrs. Jutter, introducing her. The girl looked up at the teacher … ‘But most people call me Spikey.’

Spikey is not afraid of anything. She isn’t even afraid of Arnold, and she takes Floyd under her wing. Slowly but surely Floyd discovers that life isn’t as ordinary as he thought. Spikey shares a big secret with him and Arnold turns out to have a voodoo mother. When Arnold discovers that Floyd knows, Floyd lands in big trouble. How will Flea and Spikey escape the wrath of Arnold and the machinations of his mother? And how will Floyd come to terms with his pesty nickname? With plenty of humor, Pieter Koolwijk introduces the reader to the world of Flea and Spikey where the boundaries between reality and fantasy blur. Linde Faas gives Spikey – the girl everyone wants to be friends with – her cheerful and unique form.

My Review: This is an early chapter book that would be wonderful for late primary, early junior students. It tackles bullying in an amusing, yet effective way. I am not a big advocate of fighting back (not physically), but in this case, the teacher (adult) does not help the kids so they have to figure out how to deal with the situation and they do it well.

Floyd, is a boy that you might be able to find in any school. He is small and picked on, especially by Arnold, the class bully. He is called Flea by Arnold and his sidekicks. The rest of the class, while not outwardly calling him names, they participate by laughing and scratching, thus encouraging the bullies. Floyd just wants to be ignored, but it does not work. He’s not brave and he reacts when teased, which just seems to encourage the others. He is tired of being trapped by Arnold everyday and punched, hit, tied up, had things stolen etc, but he does not know where to turn. When he told his mother, Arnold got in trouble, but then just racheted up the bullying. Everything changes when Sophie aka. Spikey arrives at the school and sits next to Flea. She is a petite girl with colourful clothes, spiked hair and an attitude that is so positive, she can put a spin on anything. Spikey is not afraid of anything, not even Arnold. She loves and embraces the fact that she is different and when someone tries to tease her about it, she laughs and jokes about the same issue even harder. He is not sure what to do with her, so he pretty much leaves her along. Flea and Spikey become best friends and she takes him under her wing. She tries to teach him to laugh and accept that he is different, but he finds it too difficult. He just does not want to be called Flea! Spikey shares a big secret with him and and her father shares that Arnold’s mother is a Voodoo Queen. When he uses this information to get Arnold to leave him alone, it backfires. How will Flea and Spikey escape the wrath of Arnold and his mother? And how will Floyd come to terms with his pesky nickname? Will Floyd and Spikey’s friendship last?

Even though this book deals with a serious subject, it is done in a way that children will enjoy. There is adventure, some humour and wonderful lessons about embracing what makes you you, and ignoring those that might want to put you down in order to feel better about themselves. It helps teach the reader how to accept themselves and not allow others to make them feel less than they are. The characters are both funny and real to kids. They deal with some outlandish and unbelievable situations as well as those most children see on a daily basis. A good book for opening conversations about bullying, being different, and being yourself. There are not a lot of illustrations, but those that are in the book are timely and add to the enjoyment of the story. It is wonderful to see what the characters look like in the author’s mind. I recommend this book to all schools, teachers and parents. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.