A grumpy cactus learns that sharing affection feels good.
Hank sits in a round pot in the window of an adobe structure surrounded by desert. According to the straightforward text, “It was hot, dry, peaceful, and quiet. Just the way Hank liked it.” Soon enough, however, the peace is punctured by a number of creatures passing by. Rosie the Tumbleweed calls a cheerful greeting, as do a timid turtle, a jackrabbit, and a coyote, among others. Hank hollers at each of them, but after a cowboy points out that “nobody hugs a cactus,” Hank can’t quite shake the feeling that he’s missing something. When Rosie rolls by again and does him a favor, he decides to reciprocate, which leads to a hug after all. Watercolor illustrations allow the paper’s texture to show through and feature sandy golds, subtle greens, and an expanse of sky that moves from clear blues to pinks, reds, and purples to indicate the passage of time. Goodrich imbues Hank with plenty of personality. He’s spike-headed with two stubby arms, and he looks alternately cranky, forlorn, shocked, and friendly. Elongated shapes and unusual perspectives add interest and complement the low-key, conversational text.
Caregivers of grumpy young listeners may not be entirely convinced by Hank’s relatively rapid turnaround, but the closing thought (“After all, it’s better to be stuck in a hug than stuck all alone”) is one that can be embraced by all. (Picture book. 4-8)