Children and their loved ones always enjoy storybooks about hugs and kisses and saying “I Love You.” Add a variety of animals into the mix, and you’re sure to have a winning combination. Two fairly recent additions to this genre are HOW MANY HUGS? by Heather Swain, illustrated by Steven Henry, and IF ANIMALS SAID I LOVE YOU by Ann Whitford Paul with pictures by David Walker.
HOW MANY HUGS? is a lovely picture book filled with clever rhymes and sweet illustrations. The book details how animals with zero to 750 arms would give hugs. It’s not only a fun and entertaining read, it’s also educational! Did you know a horseshoe crab has twelve arms (for six hugs) and a giant isopod has fourteen arms? Other featured creatures include the sea nettle, the nautilus, and a centipede (which has 300, not 100, arms).
The illustrations hide hearts on each animal, which is sure to provide a fun activity for those reading the book together. The hugs on each page are delightfully inviting; children and their adults will want to imitate each one. The only exception is the clam, which would pinch rather than hug – but the expressive look the clam child and parent give each other is just as loving as a hug.
The last two pages of the book include “Fun Facts” for each animal featured. These are especially helpful when addressing the curious and creative questions and observations that are sure to arise when enjoying this lovely picture book. Highly recommended for 4-8 years old.
IF ANIMALS SAID I LOVE YOU is a cute book with smiling animals snuggling and strutting and offering treats to show their love. Since it’s aimed at preschool children, the rhymes focus more on fun than fact when sharing how each animal says “I love you.” The rhymes are also a lot of fun for reading aloud with “splashity splish” and “heapity heap” and a “click-clack beat.”
Families who want their animal books both cute and based in fact will find some of the examples disappointing. For example, the page about whales reads: “Whale would sing it and, from his spout, shoot some heart-shaped bubbles out.” And when spiders appear: “Scampering Spider, spinning his web, would write ‘I adore you’ in silky white thread.” However, the friendly illustrations and alliterative rhymes will make sure young children want to hear the book many times. Recommended for ages 2-5.