A few days ago, my 6 year old neighbor, Karishma, wanted me to help her with her homework. We did a little math, a little letter and word recognition, and a little reading. She wanted to read her new favorite book, Hug Me, by Simona Ciraolo, published by Flying Eye Books, 2014.
I read it to her a few weeks ago when she was here with her 12 year old sister. The sister didn’t think she’d be interested, but as I started reading, she sat beside us and wanted to see the pictures, too. She was moved enough by it to say, “Awww,” more than once.
Hug Me is a remarkable book that tells a complex tale in charming drawings and poetic prose. “Felipe was descended from an old and famous family who liked to look good and always behaved properly.”
It’s the story of the universal need for affection and friendship, even if we are somewhat prickly. Using a little cactus as the main character puts an interesting spin on it. He’s prickly because of he descended from a prickly family. Who hasn’t felt estranged from their family of origin? Who hasn’t felt at least somewhat trapped by their ancestry?
I live in Bridge Meadows, a community made up of blended families that are adopting children out of the foster care system. Some families have all adopted children. Some have adopted children in addition to their birth children. I live in the senior housing component, and we elders serve as helpers to the families. I mentor kids, teach them art, and read with them.
|She sounds out all the words, even “uaahhh.”|
I’ve read this story over a dozen times in the past few weeks to kids from ages 2 to 12, and they’re all gripped by it. I now keep it in the book-bag I carry with me when I’m in the community center or else I’m chastised for not having it.
Since many of the kids have been in foster care and counselling, they love that the Ciraolo uses the term “personal space.” Many have had their personal space violated in the past, but they still want to be close to family and friends.
They love that in the end, Felipe knows exactly what to do. His past loneliness has made him a better person. (In his honor, a few of the kids and I may start a cactus and rock garden this summer.) They also LOVE the pictures. It’s amazing to me, too, how much expression Ciraolo creates in her characters. Even a simple dandelion has a personality in this story.
Karishma happens to be one of the children who has been with her birth family for her whole life. She has foster sisters and her mom had a baby a little over a year ago. When we read the book together, I asked her if she ever felt like she needed a hug and didn’t get one. She first said no. Then she flipped through the book again, and said, “Well, since my sister was born. Sometimes she won’t hug me and sometimes everyone hugs her and forgets me.”
I told her the same thing happened to me when my little brother was born. Now I know how important hugs are.
“Me, too,” Karishma said. “That’s why we’re so happy.”
I’m pretty sure if you read Hug Me, you’ll be happy, too.
Hug Me has been on numerous best book lists of 2014. You can read more about Simona Ciraolo on her website here.
Flying Eye Books is based in England and publishes innovative books that introduce children to great graphics and compelling stories. They published the inspiring Welcome to Your Awesome Robot by Viviane Schwarz, which you can read about in this blog post.
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