Court Crandall, Author, Joe Murray, Illustrator , illus. by Joe Murray. Random $13.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-375-82418-0

Those youngsters unfamiliar with Murray's (Who Asked the Moon to Dinner? ) previous children's books will likely recognize his genially frenetic style from the Cartoon Network show Camp Lazlo (he's also the Emmy-winning creator of Rocko's Modern Life on Nickelodeon). Here, his considerable visual storytelling talents help goose a somewhat bumpy tale by newcomer Crandall. The plump Lord Mayor of Hugville greets readers and takes them on a tour of a town where hugging is always the order of the day (even the flowers hug). The book starts out promisingly with a stop at the local grade school, "where kids learn to hug from the time they can drool./ There's hug science, hug math—even hug history./ Each taught by someone with a hug P. H. D." (A footnote explains that the degree's initials stand for "Professional Hugging Degree.") The book then veers away from civic allusions and becomes more of a hug survey ("the Itchy Dog Hug," which lasts 60 seconds, "that's seven minutes in dog years," is a highlight). The giddily goofy premise threatens to turn sappy at times ("the Phone Hug's for huggers who live far away./ It's not what you do, but more what you say"), but Murray's pictures assuage those qualms. His thick, electric colors, swooping lines and sweetly frenzied characterizations (he excels at both humans and animals) keep the spreads abuzz with energy—and just barely contained comic anarchy. Ages 3-6. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 12/05/2005
Release date: 12/01/2005
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