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Tuesday, 14 February 2017


Author and Illustrator: Jez Alborough
Publisher: Walker Books, 2000, featured edition 2001

Hug has a place on our nurseryroom bookshelf, it might not be for every child though. It's a bright, funny, emotion rich book, containing one simple word, and one simple message - 'hug'! Actually the message is a little more flowery than that- everyone needs a hug, everyone wants a hug, the best hugs are from mums...we can hug to say thanks, group hugs mean celebration. Why not for 'every child' then? Well, because some children feel uncomfortable being hugged and that's ok. For us, the book was very useful as a way of inviting a hug with our newly placed adopted child, but it took a long time for a hug to be 'comfortable' or even sought (baby monkey Bobo is searching for a hug in the book). Bobo
eventually finds his hug, running into the arms of 'mummy' (it's a shame the parent was specified but then 'mummy' is quite an ambiguous term for 'loved one' to a toddler, at least it's a pretty transferable term in our house at the moment, 'mummy' being generic for mum, dad, siblings, anyone else, with our toddler).

The book relies on an enthusiastic adult reader making the most of their abilities in drama or performing arts to fully engage. If the adult is prepared to act like a crazed mime artist the children look on in bewilderment and enjoyment and soon ask for the book again (as with most comedic displays I suppose!) 

As for 'emotion rich', the book is clever and useful here; initially baby Bobo spots elephants hugging and looks interested, he then admires hugging chameleons, moving on to snakes, and finally he starts to look puzzled (where is his hug?). Wordlessly the other jungle animals gather round and look concerned for sad lonely looking Bobo. The elephant and her calf 
then help Bobo search for his hug/mum, and he increasingly looks on in jealousy, distress, 
panic as he fails to find his 'hug', watching a lion family hug, giraffes embrace, hippos snuggle. Bobo screams 'HUG' in despair as all the other animal gather and gasp. He sits on a rock and sobs. His crying is heard by his mummy, who shouts for him in delight. They embrace, surrounded by a rapturous applause from all the other animals. Bobo thanks the elephants for their help (with a hug), the animals celebrate by hugging. And all of that exposition is told through illustrations and one word alone, so it's very very clever! 

To reiterate though, sharing a hug, building this intimacy is not a given with all children, even toddlers, and it's good to respect this (so for example some children, but not all, with ASD and RAD). Yet Hug could be very useful with this group, especially as a means of talking through emotions, and discussing why the monkey searches for a hug. Before purchasing for a SEN or LAC library though, be aware that one of my children interpreted the monkey as 'lost' (thankfully not abandoned), and worried the monkey wasn't loved. This is a very simple, innocent, sweet, useful book, but it can pack a big punch. 

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