Pug Hug by Zehra Hicks, Hachette
What's it about?
Pug is lonely when his human leaves for school, and really needs a hug. He goes in search of one but everyone he asks is too busy, except for a rather suspicious crocodile. Will Pug ever find the perfect hug?
What can we learn?
Not everyone likes hugs or always has time for them. It's important to respect the boundaries of those around us and not take it personally if they don't feel like interacting. Even if others aren't available right now, it doesn't mean they won't be later, and good things come to those who wait!
What makes this stand out? How cute, warm and funny the story is, and the fabulous illustrations.
About those illustrations... They're amazing — so bright, uplifting and full of emotion! The colour palette is really striking and the expressions on the faces of all the characters are brilliant. We love the little details like Pug's saucer-like eyes, his bunny ears when approaching Rabbit, and the feather headdress and skirt he wears to charm the parrots.
Why we love it...
My kids and I adore this story. The youngest frequently embraces the book and tries to give Pug a hug herself! The six-year-old is delighted by the simple language that she can read herself, while the four-year-old has learned the text off by heart and also likes to 'read' it.
We enjoy all the humour and the different personalities and preoccupations of each animal, especially Cat and Croc. My kids are highly amused when Pug tries to hug a goldfish and always laugh at his near miss with Croc. They love seeing Cat slink off at the end to avoid a group display of affection but their favourite part is seeing all the characters together on the final page. I love this scene too; how the animals react and interact is really clever and comical.
This is actually our third copy of Pug Hug! My eldest brought the original to school one day but it never returned. I bought the ebook as a quick-fix replacement, intending to get another hard copy. I mentioned this in a review of the equally wonderful Cheeky Monkey and afterwards, its lovely author and illustrator, Zehra Hicks, kindly sent a signed replacement! You can imagine my children's excitement when this arrived through the door, especially once they saw the inscription with their names and a sketch of Pug. It's an incredibly generous and thoughtful gift which we will treasure. We're very grateful to Zehra!
Why you need it...
This book can be enjoyed by a variety of ages. It's simple enough to appeal to babies, and the bold shapes and bright colours are perfect for them. At the same time, it's entertaining enough to engage older readers. There's a lack of diversity in children's books so it's fantastic that the only human character is a person of colour. As it's quite theatrical, this is a great story to read aloud in a school or nursery setting. The adorable Pug is bound to leave pawprints on the heart of anyone who meets him.
About the author-illustrator
Zehra Hicks is a tutor at Chelsea College of Arts. Her debut picture book The Boy Who Hated Toothbrushes was highly commended for the Macmillan Prize for Illustration in 2009. It also won the Heart of Hawick Award in 2012 and was named Lovereading4Kids Debut of the Year 2011. All Mine! was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal. The series tackling overwhelming emotions on which Zehra collaborated with Rachel Rooney has been praised by parents and professionals alike. This includes The Problem with Problems, The Worrying Worries and the upcoming The Fears You Fear. Zehra lives in Epsom with her family and you can find more of her work on her website.