Friday, April 22, 2011

Hug Time

Written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
$14.99, ages 4-8, 48 pages.

Jules, the big-hearted kitten from McDonnell's comic strip Mutts, walks the world over trying to make hurts go away in this classic gem.

With the help of his girl Doozy, the little tabby puts on his green sweater and sets out into the world with a Hug To-Do List and front legs ready to cuddle.

First thing out the door, Jules wraps himself around each of his buddies, Mooch the feline, Noodles the alley cat and Earl the dog.

Then before he's gone far, he leaps up to give a butterfly a squeeze, and embraces a bed of buttercups and a gray squirrel.

Then it's off to the park to hug every bird he can find and next: the wide open sea. He's determined to find a big blue whale and soon spots a Y-shaped tail.

From the bow of an ocean liner, Jules reaches his arms out as the whale cranes its wide neck and hugs all of the whale that he can: a teeny tiny hug for a huge fellow.

Soon the ship docks in Africa and Jules realizes a hug just won't do, so he kisses the ground -- "the earth so precious, so fragile, so round," McDonnell writes.

Then it's off to hug all of Africa's animals, especially the endangered ones: an elephant gets a trunk squeeze, a chimpanzee gets a hug around its middle and a giraffe gets its snout loved.

Soon he's laying tummy-first on the back of a hippo in the water and squeezing him tight and finally, he heads over to wrap his arms around the baobab tree.

Next on the list, exploring the rain forest, and to Jules's surprise, he walks right up to a new species, a big-eyed little fellow with blue and purple stripes crawling up a plant stem.

Kneeling, he whispers, 'We welcome you.'"

Then it's off to India to find tigers, but with so few of them still around, he will have to look hard and be patient.

Sitting cross-legged in a thicket of grass, he tells himself that if he waits, one will come. And it does -- with a purr and big embrace.

Before long Jules is up to number 306 on his list, the humuhumu fish, a blue-toothed reef fish. What a day, but it's not over. He still has to get to the North Pole.

Way up on the tippy-top of Earth, Jules is as far as he can be from home, and as he floats all alone on an iceberg, he thinks about what it would be like to live by himself.

Sadness floods his heart, and he sniffs and snuffles, and buries his eyes in his paws.

But what's that tugging on his tail? A big, fluffy polar bear is stretching out his front legs to give Jules a hug.

"The world is so big," McDonnell writes, as Jules sails home across the sea, then adds, "And yet so small,"  as Jules runs to Doozy at her porch. "It's time that we embrace it all."

Over 48 heart-swelling pages, McDonnell inspires readers to give openly of themselves and cherish all that Earth has to offer.

This is one of those books, you'll hug to your heart and want to get copies of for friends.

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