The 2020 paperback release of the critically acclaimed 2018 edition. 'Born Bad is an accessible and lighthearted picture book that cleverly introduces young readers ages 4-9 to issues surrounding identity and transformation through humor and surprising animal facts'. -- The Midwest Book Review “Wolf wasn’t happy being Wolf. When he looked in the mirror he looked BAD. And when he looked bad, he felt bad, and when he felt bad, he acted bad.” Wolf wants to change but he’s not sure how. He goes on a journey, meeting members of the animal kingdom that experience change; a caterpillar, chameleon, salamander and seal, to name a few. With their help he undergoes a magnificent transition... C K Smouha is a children’s author living and working in Bristol. Born Bad was her first book, but she has since authored a number of critically acclaimed books for Cicada.
READING ZONE: This book is ultimately about being able to be yourself, it's entertaining but quite wordy so suits a slightly older reader. There are plenty of learning opportunities about animals that undergo some form of metamorphosis, and many themes about believing in yourself and how to express yourself.
The pictures are bright and eye-catching, the story is engaging. This book could be used in PSHE sessions about acceptance and appearance. It would also be a fun, cross-curricular link to metamorphosis or life cycles in science.
DELLYBIRD REVIEW: Identity is the key theme that is explored in Born Bad. Being comfortable in your own skin is one of the greatest personal difficulties I and many others will ever face. This is obviously more acute for anyone struggling with their gender identity. It is easy to see that transgender awareness is part of the underlying narrative but it is explored in a way that makes this complex issue easily accessible to young readers. It is hard to not feel embarrassed sometimes when we don’t like ourselves. Born Bad helps young readers to be proud of who they are and to be more accepting of others. Wolf can feel good!
I have not come across many picture books that delve so deeply into important issues like identity and transgender awareness. I think it is a really nice story to help young readers explore their own feelings about identity and to learn to accept other people. An important part of the book is that Wolf is ignorant and it is only through education that he understands the other animals better. It encourages young readers to ask questions and to not be afraid of negative responses. I think that any book that helps people to be happy with themselves is worth reading and this is definitely one of them. If you have read Born Bad I would love to know what you think!
IBBY UK REVIEW BY DR. LINA IORDANAKI: Does the way we look affect the way we see ourselves? The wolf of this story would certainly say yes. 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.
MY SHELVES ARE FULL REVIEW: Bold illustrations and colours make this book visually spectacular. Brave and bold, this book will help children to understand their differences and find a way to feel good about themselves, all without judgement.
CHILDREN'S BOOK & MEDIA REVIEW: Born Bad is a playful story surrounding the struggles of identity.
C.K. Smouha’s simple phrases and diverse characters pair vividly with Stephen Smith’s bold illustrations to offer a humorous spin on clichéd idioms.
The story uses bio-mimicry to approach dark themes of identity and self-worth in a less severe context. Being born “different” is a common misconception of identity among humans today, suggesting that identity is permanent and rooted in DNA. Allowing children to see differences occurring in the natural world in a way that is necessary allows for a more positive understanding of diversity. C.K. Smouha offers a perspective of hope, one that advocates for embracing differences. The story seems pertinent for readers struggling against the norms of society as much as for those who fit right in. Through the self-awareness and self-confidence shared among his friends, Wolf discovers that identity is flexible and evolving. Likewise, through support and acceptance, humans can look at their perceived shortcomings in ways that make them special and realize that identity lies in who they choose to be.
AOI REVIEW: Born Bad both feels and looks generous. The paper and print quality serve to present Stephen’s images at their best, the colors are deep and exciting, the shapes and textures as crisp and clear as the paper-cut originals. The book format allows the designs to make full impact, where the force of the colors is intensified by the simplicity of the forms they adorn.
PLUCKED FROM THE STACK REVIEW: 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. 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.
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL REVIEW: Smouha has an elegant hand and Smith equally elegant art.
MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW: Born Bad is an accessible and lighthearted picture book that cleverly introduces young readers ages 4-9 to issues surrounding identity and transformation through humor and surprising animal facts. Born Bad is highly recommended, especially for community, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.
CREATIVE REVIEW: Stephen Smith is no stranger to creating casts of characters that set out to intrigue and delight. In Born Bad, his main focus was to translate the story into illustrations that children would love and respond to. He also wanted the picture book to be read in different ways, and for adults to enjoy it too.
LET'S TALK PICTURE BOOKS: A non-didactic tale about the courage it takes to change your ways and how sometimes the best way to start making those changes is to ask yourself some tough questions.The mixed-media illustrations are loud and colorful and downright exciting to look at. As the wolf asks new questions, the variety of animals that pops up explores popular expressions like "a wolf in sheep's clothing" and "can a leopard change its spots." It gives readers a chance to make some connections between common phrases and the concepts they represent as well as to identify animals on the page. The characters themselves are super friendly and accessible, with the wolf in non-threatening positions throughout that make readers sympathize with him and want him to succeed in his journey of self-actualization.