A mopey mollusk seeks approval from his mom, but can't get the hugs he desperately wants, in a bittersweet, slimy story.
Sluggy is a "spotty, shiny, whiny slug" who is greedy for hugs but never gets them, even from his own mother. "Is she never snuggly / because I am so ugly?" he sighs into a reflecting puddle. Sluggy consults with nearby animals for an extended slug makeover in hopes of become a more huggable son, trying on beaks and goatees, feathers and tails, but in the end, it's not a lack of love but a lack of arms that keeps the hugs from happening. Luckily, slugs can kiss, and at least they're not leeches. What at first seems like an unbearably melancholy story is given uplift by the silly costumes and by a sweet, unconditionally loving ending. But any young reader who's ever felt temporary neglect may feel a pang even amid the singsong-y rhymes. The watercolor illustrations seem to lose precision as Sluggy's accumulating costume gets more absurd, as if showing that Sluggy is disappearing into another identity. Still, it's the earned payoff and a delicate balance of tones, both light and melancholy, that make the slug's quest memorable.
Sluggy may not have limbs for hugs, but the book feels like a big, generous embrace. (Picture book. 4-8)