Written and Illustrated by Scott Campbell
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014
Whoa! Here I come! I am the Hug Machine
The plot in a nutshell: A boy loves to give hugs
The story’s main character is a boy who calls himself the Hug Machine, because he gives the very best hugs in the world and no one can resist them. He hugs everyone and everything around him, including animals, rocks and even an ice cream truck. When he sees a crying baby, he hugs him to make everything better. A porcupine tells him that no one ever hugs him because of his spikes and the Hug Machine puts on some protective gear and gives him a big hug. A whale asks if he’s too big for a hug and the Hug Machine slides down his back, hugging him all the way. After some pizza, his favorite fuel, he goes out to hug everyone in his path and comes home exhausted, to happily be on the receiving end of a hug from his mother.
Although Scott Campbell has illustrated pictures books for other writers, this is his first time stepping into the author role and if this is any indication of what we can expect from him, I hope he’s planning to stick around. As someone who really values the power of hugs, I loved the way this book balances sweetness and silliness to show how transformative hugs can be. Mr. Campbell does a great job capturing the main character child’s voice and his true belief that hugging is his super power.
The watercolor artwork backs up his claims, too. Check out the expression on his face during his hugs. His eyes are closed and there’s a look of calm peace that tells you, without a doubt, that he is truly caring for the person (or animal or inanimate object) that he’s hugging. When he hugs the porcupine, the Hug Machine tells him that those who have been too afraid to hug him have been missing out. What a lovely affirmation to give to someone who feels unworthy of a hug! And you have to appreciate that this book, centered around hugs and filled with pink and peach colors, features a boy as its main character. Be sure to check out the book’s endpapers, which feature a checklist of people and objects to hug.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that hugs have magical powers that improve the lives of both the giver and the receiver. Go hug someone now. I just did and it was awesome.