When Wolf looks in the mirror, he thinks he looks bad. And when he thinks looks bad, he feels bad. And when he feels bad … well, bad things happen. And frankly, he’s tired of being bad. But after a chat with other members of the animal kingdom, Wolf soon realizes that maybe he doesn’t have to be bad after all.
Sometimes how a person looks doesn’t reflect who they are inside. Author C.K. Smouha has latched onto this concept and concocted a heartwarming story of both change and personal acceptance. Through dialogue-filled text expertly peppered with quirky jokes and animal facts, she takes one big bad Wolf and examines what’s made him so grumpy.
By adventuring to other animals, he soon discovers that it’s perfectly common to feel uncomfortable with yourself. And with the help of a cadre of animal pals, from a salamander to a seal, he comes to terms with the need to make personal changes for his own comfortability—even if that means undertaking a complicated process, or even if others find it unexpected. It’s a heartwarming narrative centered on self-discovery that opens a broader discussion about identity.
Elevating this already polished story is Stephen Smith’s artwork. Through deceptively simple mixed-media illustrations, he populates the story with downright charming characters. Colorful and vibrant, each spread feels crisp as it propels the action forward. Above all, though the focus remains on a character who claims he’s bad, Smith keeps things accessible, casting Wolf sympathetically while highlighting the almost party-like atmosphere surrounding his new friends.
Ultimately, Born Bad works on every level. A humorous yet insightful text mixed with skilled illustrations, it forms a journey of self-acceptance with a smile-inducing ending.
Title: Born Bad
Author: C.K. Smouha
Illustrator: Stephen Smith
Publisher: Cicada Books
Publication Date: September 10, 2018
Classification: LGBTQIA+, Picture Books
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.