Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Armful Of Love

When working with elementary school children you quickly become acquainted with a phenomenon distinctly unique to them and them alone.  You can't walk down a hallway, into the cafeteria or gymnasium, a classroom or the library without encountering it.  You had better be prepared because it is highly contagious.

They are more than willing to pass it on; sharing with the generosity for which they are so well known.  Of course I am speaking about hugs.  Hug Machine (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, August 26, 2014) written and illustrated by Scott Campbell shadows the effervescent sharing of one such boy.

Here I come!
I am the Hug Machine!

This little guy doesn't just hug, he declares to the world about his stellar skills.  No one escapes his hugs.  His family is first on his list.

His hugs serve purposes other than caring and kindness; bringing peace and joy as well as driving people crazy.  Stationary objects are the recipients of his welcoming arms.  Large growing things like trees and bears...you read that right...bears, do not escape this child's squeezes.

His hugs change the way those hugged feel; lifting them up.  All kinds of textures and shapes get his hugs.  Tears vanish and smiles appear after one of his hugs.  His inventiveness allows him to approach those avoided by all others.

When his stamina begins to wan, he recharges with his favorite food; its roundness similar to the shape of his arms as he cuddles all the people and items of his affection.  Everything in his path earns an embrace.  As the day draws to a close, this likable lad starts to feel totally tuckered out.

He simply can't hold out his arms.  He simply can't wrap himself around one more person or thing.  He simply can't. Oh, wait.  He is the

Hug Machine.

With every sentence Scott Campbell builds on the exuberance of his character.  Each voiced expression is an exercise in optimism.  His word choices are filled with confidence; good, best, no one can resist.  His character sees the value in all things no matter their size or physical characteristics.  With each series of phrases Campbell follows with

I am the Hug Machine!  

creating an expectation in readers and a request to join in the boy's journey.  No challenge is too difficult for him to overcome; an answer is there for each question.

The dusty rose background on the matching dust jacket and book case supplies the backdrop for the complimentary colors on the boy, his clothing and the postal box.  You easily want to hug this book; affection and warmth surround you when you look at it.  On the back a small image of the dog and turtle hugging is placed above the ISBN.  The same color with a tad bit of orange shading is used on the opening and closing endpapers.  They each feature a Hug Checklist written in a child's handwriting.  Beside each drawn person or thing to hug is, at first, an empty check box.  At the end each has received a check mark.  Beneath the title, Scott Campbell has placed his huggable hero lifting weights to make his arms stronger.

White space is a key element in all of the illustrations rendered in watercolor throughout this book.  Campbell may choose to extend his picture across two pages, edge to edge or create a series of smaller ones over the next several pages to provide pacing.  At times we see soft dashes which designate the boy's path as his hugs are given.

We may be given a broad perspective of his adventure or a close-up of how his hugs make a difference.  When we read words like soft, hard, square, long, spiky or too big his pictured examples are familiar and fun.  One of my favorite illustrations is of the boy hugging the porcupine.  It's a close-up across two pages with the boy and the porcupine embracing with eyes closed.  His attire clearly demonstrates his willingness to give everything a hug.  It's a superb visual for the words

They are missing out!

This first title Scott Campbell has both written and illustrated, Hug Machine, is as lovable as a favorite stuffed toy.  His portrayal of this boy, who represents many younger children, is sure to elicit smiles because it's the truth.  I think it would pair very well with The Runaway Hug by Nick Bland with illustrations by Freya Blackwood.

Be sure to follow the link embedded in Scott Campbell's name to visit his website.  This link takes you to the publisher's website where you can view interior pages.  Enjoy the video.

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