The Hug by Eoin McLaughlin, illustrated by Polly Dunbar (9780571348756)
This picture book is written as a split picture book that flips over with each character telling their side of the story, literally. Two creatures are looking for a hug. Hedgehog wants a hug, but no one will hug them. They can’t figure out why until an owl offers the information that they are too spiky to be hugged by most animals. Tortoise wants a hug too. He asks various animals as well, but they all refuse. The same owl explains to Tortoise that he is too hard for most animals to want to hug him. Then though, Hedgehog and Tortoise meet in the center of the book!
Such a simple little book, this offers a great amount of pleasure when the two animals find one another. Even though readers will know that Hedgehog hugs Tortoise, the book is worth flipping over to read it from Tortoise’s point of view too. McLaughlin’s text is fresh and simple, much like Dunbar’s illustrations. One little element that adds to the fun is watching both Tortoise and Hedgehog get more and more grimy from the animals they meet, picking up bits of dirt and fuzz along their journeys. The hug though, the hug at the middle is pure bliss.
Perfect for when you need a hug, even if you are a bit prickly or too hard. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Faber & Faber.
New Shoes by Chris Raschka (9780062657527)
A child has worn out their old shoes. They have couple of holes in them, big enough to put in a finger. Big enough that water can come in. The child heads off with their mommy to the shoe store. Their feet are measured and are bigger than before. New shoes are chosen off of the display wall. The yellow shoes pinch a bit. The red shoes are comfortable. The child heads off running outside and finds a friend to show their new shoes to.
Written very simply in the child’s voice, this book speaks to the joy of new shoes after wearing a pair out. It is the perspective of the illustrations that make this book so unique and special. Shown only from the child’s point of view looking down towards their feet, the illustrations focus on what the child sees. It’s endearing and very personal. A delight of a picture book for the youngest children, this one will make a great board book too. Appropriate for ages 1-3. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Toesy Toes by Sarah Tsiang (9781459813427)
This board book focuses entirely on toes and the joy of discovering them. With a diverse cast of children in the vivid and charming photographs that fill the pages, this one is a great pick for the smallest children. The book has a simple format, bright colors and a rollicking rhythm that keeps the pace brisk and lively. Sure to have everyone playing with their own toes! Appropriate for ages 1-2. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Wee Beasties: Huggy the Python Hugs Too Hard by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths (9781534410800)
A lovely light-hearted board book that tells the story of a python who just can’t seem to hug things without squeezing them far too hard. Huggy tries to hug a balloon with an explosive result. The mess is even larger when he shows how much he loves cake. When a puppy enters the story though, it’s time for young readers to demonstrate a very gentle hug in the hopes that Huggy will be able to imitate them. Dyckman is an author who always gets her tone for young readers just right and this is no exception. Expect lots of toddler giggles with this one! One of those special board books that has a real story arc, this one is funny and filled with love. Appropriate for ages 1-2. (Reviewed from library copy.)
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.
The Runaway Hug by Nick Bland, illustrated by Freya Blackwood
Lucy is all ready for bed and asks her mother for a hug. When her mother jokes that is the last hug she has left, Lucy offers to borrow it and return it. Lucy heads off to lend the hug to different members of her family, making sure to get it back each time. Each hug is different, some tighter others smell like peanut butter. When Lucy gives her dog a hug though, the dog runs off and Lucy is sure that she has lost her mother’s last hug forever.
Bland and Blackwood make a great team for creating picture books. Black’s tone is playful from the very beginning and one knows that this family is something special just from the way they speak to one another. Throughout there is a sense of humor and an enduring affection for one another that permeates the book. Bland also does a great job of keeping the book securely in Lucy’s point of view, so that readers know from the very beginning that Lucy is taking this last hug seriously. There is no laughing at Lucy for this, rather it serves as the heart of the book and this imaginative play is celebrated.
Blackwood’s illustrations have fabulous soft lines that blur and flow. Blackwood leaves some of her lines from sketching on the page, creating a sense of motion but also a feeling of the connected nature of the world right on the page. She also adds to the warmth of Bland’s writing, her home that she places this family in filled with warmth, some clutter, and reality.
A beautiful pick for bedtime, just make sure you aren’t down to your last hug! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.
Hugs from Pearl by Paul Schmid
Pearl is a very friendly little porcupine, and one of her favorite things to do is give everyone hugs. But porcupines are prickly and Pearl’s hugs hurt! At first Pearl tried keeping Band-Aids handy after hugs, but she didn’t like to make her friends say “Ouch!” Then she tried pin cushions on her quills, but that took way too long and she couldn’t reach them all. Pearl tried a long hot bath, but her quills refused to soften. Pearl decided that she just couldn’t give hugs any more. But then she got inspiration on her way home from school when she saw some bees buzzing happily among the thorny roses. Could Pearl have figured out the trick to pain-free hugs from a porcupine?
Schmid has created a story that is simply told and can be read solely as a book about a little porcupine, but it is also a story that could be used for discussions about what each of us has that is prickly and hurts other people and how we can solve it. The story has a touch of heartache and a real sweetness to it that never becomes sickly sweet or overbearing, instead it has a great freshness to it.
The art is equally fresh with its charming mix of pale greens and pinks. Pearl herself glows with her pale pink blush, popping on each page compared to the other animals. Her facial expressions manage to convey deep emotions even though they are just a few lines on the page. The simplicity in both the text and the illustrations make the book very enticing.
This book is a shining example that adorable, sweet books can also be stirring and warm. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.