The Picture Book Buzz

Don't Hug the Quokka - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I found a fun book with an adorable main character which sauntered onto the shelves last month. A book which uses humor, rhyme, and irresistible cuteness to encourage kids and adults to think about body autonomy, consent, and our interactions with others.

Don't Hug the Quokka


Author: Daniel Errico


Illustrator: Mia Powell


Publisher: Magination Press (2022)


Ages: 4-8


Fiction


Themes:

Personal space, consent, humor, and hugs.


Synopsis:

That quokka may be cute, but does it want a hug? The quokka says “No!” In Don't Hug That Quokka!, young readers get a lighthearted and friendly introduction to the concept of consent, learning that even the most adorable creatures might not want a hug—unless they say so!


Consent is a really important topic for parents to introduce with young children, but it can be tricky to do so in a way that’s clear without being frightening. This book is funny and cute, but has a clear message that you have to ask before touching someone else—it’s a good place to start for young kids.


Opening Lines:

This is the Quokka.


I thought you should know.

He’s cute.

And he hops.


And smiles like so.


What I LIKED about this book:

Written in a gentle, almost Seussian-like rhyme, the narrator introduces the Quokka and his aversion to hugs. And Mia Powell's bright, colorful illustrations do a great job of playing up the cuteness factor of the Quokka and his environment. He is soo cute, how can you resist hugging him?

Text © Daniel Errico. 2022. Image © Mia Powell, 2022.


But even if "he's waving 'Hello'," don't try to hug him, or he will say, WHOOAA!" Crossing his arms and scowling, he'll insist you back up. Then he'll draw a line in the sand. For the many kids and adults who don't like having hugs forced upon them, this book will be a wonderful validation. And perhaps result in a bit of reflection for the perpetual huggers.


There's also the subtle commentary that we shouldn't touch (or hug) wild animals, no matter how cute we think they are. Generally a very good thing to remember with all animals, especially other people's pets or critters like the adorably fluffy, but venomous, puss caterpillar.

Image © Donald W. Hall/University of Florida, 2020.


Although written with a second person point of view, the illustrations focus on a persistent child who finds it hard to resist the Quokka's fluffy cheeks, big arm-stretching yawns, and sweet little snores, despite the Quokka's crack of his tail, frosty resistance, or running away. This reduces the feeling that the narrator is necessarily pointing at (or lecturing) the reader. Daniel Errico & Mia Powell further draws the listening child/reader to the "side" of the Quokka by masterfully using the page turn and graphics to create fun interactive moments where few kids could resist shouting "NO" along with the Quokka. And laughing at his various "no hugging zone" signs.

Text © Daniel Errico. 2022. Image © Mia Powell, 2022.


After purposing a number of scenarios and "what ifs," the child seems out of patience and chases after the Quokka, determined to give it a hug. But, the narrator reminds us, "he already answered you pages ago. You can't hug the Quokka. The Quokka says...."

Text © Daniel Errico. 2022. Image © Mia Powell, 2022.


Unless... hmm, nah. I'm not going to spoil it. Though if you saw (or check out) Daniel Errico's interview on Monday, you can see the last page - as it is one Daniel is particularly fond of. This book does a fantastic job of highlighting that everyone (person or animal) has the right to say "no" to hugs. That they have the right to space and to be able to consent to if, how, and when they are touched. The back matter, written by Karen Rayne, PHD offers parents and caregivers wonderful thoughts on different personalities and tools for helping kids figure out "when (and how) to say" yes or no. Ultimately, this is such a fun way for kids to experience and explore the ideas of body autonomy and personal space, and the joy of a desired hug.


Resources:

- make a Quokka bookmark or a Quokka "hug" sign (using template, draw or paint a quokka of two sides of paper. Add "hugs" on one side & "no hugs" on the other. Punch two holes at the top, thread & knot yarn or ribbon for a hanger. Hang on door knob.)


- when do you like to get hugs? Make a list, or draw a picture, of when you do and when you don't like to get hugs. Do the same for when you like to give hugs. Are the lists, images, the same? When are they different?


- pair this book with Rissy No Kissies by Katey Howes, illustrated by Jess Engle and Don't Hug Doug: (He Doesn't Like It) by Carrie Finison, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman.


If you missed the interview of Patrice Barton on Monday, find it (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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