Written and Illustrated by Paul Schmid
Pearl is sweet.
The plot in a nutshell: A porcupine looks for a way to hug her friends harmlessly.
Pearl loves hugs, but she’s a porcupine, which means that when she hugs her friends, it hurts them. But they hug her anyway, because they love her. She doesn’t want them to hurt, so she tries a few different methods to solve the problem, including putting pincushions on her quills, soaking in a tub and getting a trim. Then she notices a rosebush on the way home from school and she sees bees flying around the roses and avoiding the thorns. She rushes home, grabs a pillowcase with a rose pattern and makes herself a dress. At school, the next day, her friends can hug her painlessly and they all do so. Twice.
There is no point trying to resist this book. I just don’t think it can be done. Author/illustrator Paul Schmid manages to hit just the right notes with this adorable story. There’s nothing forced or false about it, which is what makes it all work so well. Pearl is presented as someone who is selfless and optimistic, who loves to hug her friends but doesn’t want to hurt them. She takes it upon herself to solve the problem, even though the problem doesn’t really affect her personally, which is wonderful. And she’s not feeling sorry for herself or being angry or mopey about the situation, which is admirable, too.
The illustrations take the cuteness to a new level, as Pearl is just about the cutest porcupine ever. The minimal artwork shows just her and her friends (equally adorable mouse and beaver) on alternating pastel blue and green backgrounds. The illustrations are mostly just black and white, with some cute pink coloring in Pearl’s face and some green and pink from the patterned pillowcase. There are messages here about acceptance and affection, but also a wonderful subtle message about thinking of others and finding ways to go the extra mile to make things easier for them.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is a really good hug, from someone you really love, is worth just about anything you have to go through to get it. And the best friends will find the perfect way to give you those hugs.