Books Come Alive

When my son Ben was small, he repeated lines from William Steig’s Doctor DeSoto (Square Fish, ages 3-6) when he could barely speak. “Let’s risk it,” he’d quote in certain situations, remembering the mouse dentist who courageously aided a fox in tooth pain.

I recalled those times as I put my latest book selection in the mail for Catie. I choose a title that I think has a good chance of coming alive in her family. You may be able to tell this from title alone, Hug Machine (Atheneum, ages 21/2 and up).

Hug Machine is the first book Scott Campbell has both written and illustrated. “I am very good at hugging,” begins the loving young narrator and continues, “The best at hugging. No one can resist my unbelievable hugging.” This young character seems very aware. He is sure of the delight of those he hugs and his own addiction, “I hug everything I see! No one escapes the Hug Machine.”

At some points this book feels list-like which happens to be one of my least favorite things in a book, and yet, Campbell makes these strings of situations succeed because of his illustrations and the humor of ridiculous. The young hero is equally expert at hugging a crying younger sibling or a porcupine who savors his affections.

My only regret about this book, I won’t be there to receive a hug after reading because grandchildren are the best huggers in the world. Proof captured below during our recent visit!

Grandpa melting into a Catie hug

Grandpa melting into a Catie hug

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