The topic of consent comes up with young children and adults alike. Sometimes parents and educators have a hard time helping preschoolers understand how to both understand what is important for others, and how to communicate what is important for themselves. A new book helps with these sometimes difficult discussions! THE GREAT BIG HUG by Isy Abraham-Raveson is a simple and sweet story about two friends who learn that communication is key to a healthy relationship. Elephant is confused when Meerkat says OUCH! when Elephant hugs him. He wonders if he is too big to be friends with Meerkat and runs away. As he travels and meets lots of animal friends who have different reactions to Elephants tickles and hugs, Elephant realizes that everyone likes different kinds of games, and that’s okay.
The Great Big Hug’s style may seem overly direct and simple to adults, but the message is a good introduction (and frankly, a needed reminder) about consent and communication from which all ages could benefit. Elephant’s hurt feelings and slow realization is an example of how someone can “do better” when they have learned how they affect others.
Each of the animals with whom Elephant interacts has a different type of reaction to hugs and tickle games. Elephant’s responses, a combination of self-pity and self-blame, are both realistic and sympathetic. The illustrations are expressive despite their lack of detail, and the watercolor/collage-style look that Todd Hall employs works well with the text.
THE GREAT BIG HUG would work well as a read-aloud in classrooms and for families to read together when discussing bodily autonomy and respecting others’ boundaries. Highly recommended.