Review: Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

hug machine

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

A little boy considers himself a hug machine in this fanciful cheerful picture book.  All day long the hug machine goes around giving hugs, because he is simply the best at hugging.  He cannot be resisted.  His hugs do many things, they can calm you down, cheer you up.  He hugs objects, animals, and crying babies.  He even hugs things that never get hugged, like porcupines (but not without the proper protection).  Huge whales are not too big for him to hug either.  What is the secret to his amazing hugging?  Plenty of pizza for power and knowing when he is too tired to hug anymore and just needs to be hugged by someone else.

Campbell uses simple text in this picture book, focusing mostly on the action of hugging a lot on each page.  He uses repeating structures but always throws in a nice little twist or change up that keeps the book fun to read.  The entire book exudes the warmth of a hug and the wry little touches of humor add to that feeling.  I must also say that having a book with a male character who loves being hugged and giving hugs is refreshing.  It’s also a pink book about a boy, hallelujah!

The art in the book is wonderfully warm and cozy.  It captures not only the loving hugs of the boy but the various reactions by the things being hugged.  Readers will find that the text often does not match what is happening on the page, making for more comic moments in the book.  After all this is the hug machine telling the tale, so he thinks people are a lot more excited to be hugged than they may actually be.

A loving and hug-filled book that avoids being too sweet and instead is a bright cheerful picture book perfect for sharing.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Two Parrots by Rashin Kheiriyeh

two parrots

Two Parrots by Rashin Kheiriyeh

Inspired by a tale by Rumi, this picture book takes an allegorical look at imprisonment and freedom.  A Persian merchant receives a parrot as a present and places him in a golden cage.   When the merchant heads out on a trip to India, he asks the parrot what gift he can bring back.  The parrot asks him to find his parrot friend and explain that the parrot would love to see him but is unable to due to his cage.  The merchant does as is asked and when he tells the parrot of his friend in the cage, the parrot falls down dead.  The merchant returns home to his parrot and has to tell him about the death of his friend.  At which point the parrot in the cage falls down dead too.  The merchant lifts the dead bird out of the cage and the bird promptly comes back to life and flies out the window to freedom.  The merchant is forced to admit the importance of freedom to living things.  Now he enjoys the beauty of the parrots free in his garden, uncaged.

This is not a straight-forward picture book, rather it is a moral and ethical tale that unwinds in a more traditional way for the reader.  It is a book that is best discussed with others who may see different aspects and different views in the story.  Many children may not have experienced this sort of story before, one that is not difficult in terms of vocabulary but instead presents a more challenging subject in an allegorical way.  Welcome to Rumi!

The art in the picture book is done by a young artist from Iran who has illustrated over 45 books for children.  His work is bright colored and full of texture.  The various papers used in his art have different textures and the colors are so strong and vibrant.  They have a great mix of quirky modern and traditional style. 

A delightful mix of traditional and modern storytelling, this picture book will get readers discussing and thinking about freedom and civil rights.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.