cover image Hedgehog Needs a Hug

Hedgehog Needs a Hug

Jen Betton. Putnam, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5247-3712-2

In her debut solo picture book, Betton (illustrator of Twilight Chant) gives the long-lamented lot of the lonely, risky-to-embrace hedgehog a gentle and winsome recast. Featuring expressive animal images that pop from white backdrops and are at once softly focused and realistic, her mixed-media art lays bare Hedgehog’s dismay after he wakes up feeling “down in the snout and droopy in the prickles” and none of his friends is willing to give him a hug. With alarmed faces, they sputter impromptu excuses; Raccoon’s insistence that he has “the most frightful garbage breath—you don’t want to come near me!” elicits an especially heartrending response from Hedgehog: “I don’t mind garbage breath.” Hedgehog’s quills come in useful when drooling Fox comes “slide-slinking over” to offer the forlorn fellow a hug—and a kiss—but instead snatches him up in his mouth before spitting out his painfully spikey snack. In a sweet conclusion that amplifies the story’s directive to look beyond appearances and eschew stereotypes, Hedgehog finds his hug, and unconditional friendship, after encountering a sobbing skunk who’s likewise feeling unhuggable. Ages 4–8. Agent: Jennifer Rofé, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (June)