Harrison P. Spader, a pale-green hippopotamus, has personal-space issues.
Harrison has a very poor sense of just how close he should come to all of his friends, among them, a dog, a rabbit, a bear, and a moose. Lively illustrations and a couple of sentences of text per page neatly summarize his issues; he doesn’t just sit too close, but also hugs too much, high-fives too hard, and shakes hands too long. Facial expressions clearly depict his victims’ dismay and his innocent, exuberant misapprehension. His parents finally provide him with some tips for determining how close he ought to stand to his friends (although they don’t ever address his other problems, such as the high-fiving and hand shaking). Although didactic by intention, this effort is easy to digest. Atkinson’s illustrations display just enough hyperbole to be funny, and Jones’ text captures Harrison’s common-enough problem without mocking his youthful enthusiasm for personal contact. The solution Harrison’s father offers, “the Space Saver,” involves Harrison’s defining that nebulous concept of appropriate space by standing “Arms out front then out real wide.” Although this movement does create a socially acceptable space, it could get little children into a bit of trouble if an area is too crowded (just as Harrison discovers).
Altogether a useful and attractive story with an often needed lesson. (Picture book. 3-6)