Hug Me is a perfect read for National Hug Day!
The Story: Felipe is a cactus whose family is bringing him up to sit still so that he can be looked at. But Felipe just wants a hug. Felipe makes friends with a balloon but one day they get too close and the balloon ends up in hospital. Felipe’s family blame him for the balloon’s injury so he leaves. Felipe is very lonely until he realises that someone close to him is lonely too… (he does find his hug and a new friend but we won’t spoil it and tell you who it is!).
We love that the hero of this adorably original story is a cactus! Felipe is a small cactus who doesn’t agree with the vanity of his family and their need for personal space. His quest for a hug is more important than standing still and aspiring to be be bigger. As soon as Felipe made friends with the balloon we knew that it wouldn’t end well but Felipe is so desperate for affection that he is blind to potential disaster. Our sympathies lie with Felipe when his picture is splashed all over the newspaper as being responsible for the balloon’s injuries (although my daughter asked why the balloon didn’t pop completely!). It gets worse before it gets better and Felipe finds a hug with somebody who appreciates him.
The cream background in Simona Ciraolo’s illustrations is a relaxing contrast to the prickly nature of the cacti. The colours are earthy, predominantly green although red is effectively used when the cacti are angry with Felipe. There are some fantastically snobby looking cacti, we like the grey cactus with the feathery green nose and the very vain cactus with its red flowers. The end papers are beautiful and are also an important part of Felipe’s story. The first one shows Felipe and his place on the family tree, the final endpaper shows Felipe and his new friend having fun together.
There are so many different species of cactus that it would be interesting for children to see a variety in real life, maybe during a trip to a garden centre or a local nursery. I have used cacti in the classroom as part of a still life drawing session with older children which has also stimulated discussions about where cacti grow and how their environment and needs differ to other plants,
Hug Me is a lovely story about finding a friend. It would make a great present for somebody special on Valentines Day.
Age Range: 3 +
Author / Illustrator: Simona Ciraolo