Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hedgehog needs a hug by Jen Betton

There are a lot of picture books that set out to be cute but end up just being creepy, mainly featuring animals or kids basically stalking or harassing others under the name of “crushes” or “cuteness”. I was very impressed then that Betton manages to write a sweet, gentle book about physical affection while still respecting personal boundaries and sending a clear message of consent.

Hedgehog wakes up on day feeling very blue. He’s sure he’ll feel better if only he can get a hug, so he sets out to find one. He asks Rabbit, but she’s got a cold and scampers into her burrow. Raccoon pleads garbage breath and disappears into his log; Turtle doesn’t even wake up. Fox is the only one willing to give him a huge, but she’s got an ulterior motive - and Hedgehog doesn’t feel bad about giving her a mouthful of spikes, even if he’s still blue and longing for a hug. Finally, Hedgehog meets a friend who also wants a hug: Skunk. Will he take a chance and give her a hug?

Hedgehog is careful to ask permission of every creature, and even though he’s sad and disappointed that they won’t give him a hug, he doesn’t get mad or blame them for being afraid of his prickles. He doesn’t accept a hug from Fox, no matter how much he wants one, because he knows she doesn’t really care about him, she just wants to eat him!

The lush mixed media illustrations - watercolor, pastel, and colored pencil - are delightful. Glowing green forests with smudged in plants and soft yellow shafts of light are the background for Hedgehog’s quest. He is a sweet little creature, with a spiny brown back, soft cream front, and pink nose, ears, and paws. Splashes of color - the rich red of Fox’s coat, dark blue and green shadows as Hedgehog crouches under a bush, and rich green-brown of Turtle’s shell - shine through the story

Verdict: A truly lovely and beautifully written debut picture book. I look forward to many more titles from Betton and strongly recommend this one for use in storytimes or one-on-one reading.

ISBN: 9781524737122; Published 2018 by G. P. Putnam/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

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