cover image Hug Time

Hug Time

Patrick McDonnell, . . Little, Brown, $14.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-316-11494-3

McDonnell (Just Like Heaven ), creator of the comic strip Mutts , has a fan base that will greet this book with open arms. The strip’s hero, the cat Jules, sets out to hug one of every sort of animal in the world. This large goal is made less overwhelming by the book’s diminutive trim size and the conviction on Jules’s tiny, wide-eyed face (famous for his big red honker). McDonnell’s previous books had sparer palettes; this one combines warm, cream pages with pastel ink-and-watercolor vignettes to pleasing effect. Double-page spreads of snowy Arctic expanses under a moonlit turquoise sky provide a tense moment (“But at the North Pole, Jules sadly found/ What it would be like with no one around”). The artist quickly dispels the audience’s concern, because as Jules starts to sniff, a polar bear offers him a hug. Meter and rhyme wobble a bit (“There once was a kitten so filled with love,/ He wanted to give the whole world a hug”), but the sentiment seems to come from the heart. McDonnell’s carefully mixed gouaches and his able draftsmanship—the rarer the animal, the less likely he is to resort to caricature—hint at newly revealed talents. Ages 3-6. (Nov.)