Can I Give You a Squish?
Emily Neilson. Dial, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-984814-77-7
In this subaqueous tale gently teaching consent and social interaction strategies, Kai, an affectionate merboy with light brown skin and a seaweed-esque swoop of dark hair, likes giving all his pals squishes to show he cares. But after Kai accidentally scares a small pufferfish with his enthusiastic hugging, Kai and his friends—a dolphin, a crab, and an octopus—come up with alternate ways to exhibit friendliness (“I like getting fin bumps!” says the pufferfish). Light- and movement-filled digital illustrations clearly portray each character’s emotions, offering young readers a visual lesson in empathy. The prose strikes a carefully executed balance between rhythm (“The rest of the morning, Kai gave out squishes./ He squelched some kelp,/ and squashed a rock”) and morals (“Every fish likes their own kind of squish!”), making for a reading experience that is both fun and educational. Ages 3–7. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2020