It’s not often I get a brand-new book to share with my class and they clap at the end of the story or demand to hear it again.
Friday, they did.
Huggapotamus by Steve Metzger and illustrations by Gabriele Antonini hit a sweet spot for my class. And I’m pretty sure it won’t be the only class to enjoy the tale. Every year I have children who haven’t quite learned the knack of social interaction. They are too touchy or grabby or impulsive, and don’t cue in to others’ discomfort at being touched or grabbed.
This is the perfect book to help them understand.
Albert is a cute little hippo who is loved dearly by his parents and gets big hugs. Hippo hugs.
Hippo hugs work well on hippos, but don’t sit so well with his friends. Benny the lion is naturally upset when Albert’s hug keeps him from scoring. Jasmine the zebra is squeezed a little too hard. And Badge the monkey is just as annoyed as the others.
No one wants to play with Albert after being hugged by him.
As Albert is feeling sorry for himself, he realizes Benny is frozen in a game of freeze tag and rushes off to save him.
Only to skid to a stop before he tramples Benny to ask if he can play, too.
Of course he can. And everyone is so pleased at his new-found ability to control himself, they band together to give him a group hug.
After asking his permission.
My class could related to both Albert and his friends, and I’m sure every single child sitting there has experienced both sides of the problem. Can they apply what they’ve learned yet?
Probably not. But I’m adding this tale to the beginning of the year books, along with my copy of Hands Are Not For Hitting. It might make the year a little easier for everyone. Including me.
(Currently, Huggapotamus is available only through Scholastic Book Clubs, the Firefly September issue. Amazon isn’t sure when it will be available.)