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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Who Wants a Hug? Written and illustrated by Jeff Mack. Harper, 2015. $21.99 ages 3 and up


"Poor skunk," said Bear. 
"You look like you need
a hug."

cried Skunk.

"It's okay," said Bear.
"I'll save  you one for later."

It's got to be tough being a skunk when there's a bear around who's constantly handing out 'bear hugs'. Skunk is pretty good at pretending that it doesn't matter much at all. In fact, he sets himself the task of making Bear smell just like him, or worse. He uses his case full of 'Super Stinky Tricks' to bring that un'bear'able hugger to his knees ... stinking to high heaven, and then being rejected by every single animal that ever begged, or cajoled, or just stood close enough to Bear to garner the warmth of one of his many warm embraces.

Every time Bear offers to hug Skunk he is rejected. Each time he is rejected he lets Skunk know that he will save him one 'for later'. The plotted stinky tricks backfire when Skunk becomes the object of his own chicanery. It is very funny for young readers (and listeners) to predict what is bound to happen and then, to giggle gleefully when it does. A dead fish catapulted directly at him misses when the engaging Bear bends to stroke a nearby earthworm, and the fish springs back from the tree it hits ... a direct SMACK to Skunk's face! There are two others, equally funny, that result in Skunk finally admitting defeat. He is dejected by it all.

Of course, Bear is right there to offer up consolation in the form of a hug. Skunk can no longer resist! The results for both animals play out in the final five pages, much to the delight of everyone who will share this story.

The characters are lovable, each in his own way. Jeff Mack fills the pages with expressive faces, funny situations and offers up perfect dialogue for his audience. Inadvertently, we might all realize that those old wooden clothes pegs still have some life in them!


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