By Lyn Staack, Youth Education Coordinator
There are many books for babies and young children about hugs! This list highlights ten books which share stories about characters who love hugs, those who don’t, and those who can’t hug in the ways we usually expect. Each books can be the start of important discussions about touch, feelings, choices, ways to communicate, and concepts like privacy, boundaries, and consent (even though most of these words are not used in the books themselves.)
I have added YouTube links so you can preview each book. I hope you borrow them from your library or buy them from local bookstores. Each one is a wonderful book, and while the videos are nice, books are best when read together. When we can act out parts of the story, laugh together, ask questions, and tell our own stories about the story.
Not every book appeals to or fits every child, or family. I hope you find some on this list that you do cherish, and that reading them helps you talk with your own fish (or mer-people) about what kind of squish they relish.
If you want books and conversation starters on body safety, appropriate and inappropriate touch, secrets versus surprises, consent, and other important lessons for abuse prevention, visit these sites for guidance and more great books: e2epublishing.info, sexpositivefamilies.com, amightygirl.com/books , stopitnow.org, and don’t forget to ask local booksellers and librarians! Interested interested in sexual abuse prevention workshops for adults in Tompkins County? email: email@example.com. Have questions or concerns about a child’s safety? Call the Advocacy Center’s 24 hour hotline at 607-277-5000.
Will Ladybug Hug? By Hilary Leung [board book]
Ladybug loves to hug. Ladybug is getting ready to go on a trip and wants to say good-bye to her friends. . . will her friends want to give her a goodbye hug? Find out in this fun storybook all about communication, hugs, high-fives, and of course, friendship as Ladybug asks each friend if they want to hug. I wish more than one of Ladybug’s friends said no to hugging, but I liked that Sheep was in the center of Ladybug’s friends at the end, and that the book concludes by asking “how do you say hi and goodbye?”
Huggy Kissy by Leslie Patricelli [board book]
Shows love expressed in lots of different physical ways: hugs, kisses, snuggles, tickles, even dog licks. The words do not emphasize consent, but the book starts with the baby asking ‘huggy, huggy?” and the illustrations are expressive, providing lots of opportunities to ask questions. “Do you think the baby enjoys that hug? How can you tell?” What about the cat?” “What kind of hugs do you like?” “What can you do when you don’t like a kind of hug? or don’t want to be hugged at all?” (I wish the nose kiss was not called an Eskimo kiss, and suggest readers change this. read more here: Inuit kunik.)
Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller [board book and picture book versions]
A book about touch and personal space. Wherever Aria goes, someone wants to touch her hair. On the street, strangers reach for her fluffy curls. Under the sea, in the jungle, and in space, she’s chased by a mermaid, monkeys, and aliens…until, Aria has had enough! Aria loves her hair but she does not understand why people do not ask her for permission before touching her. This book creates openings for many important conversations about race, gender, and body difference, social assumptions, curiosity, and respectful interactions.
Rissy No Kissies by Katey Howes and Jess Engle (Illustrator)
A lovebird who doesn’t like kisses? Rissy’s friends and family wonder if she’s sick, confused, or rude. Kisses make Rissy uncomfortable. With reassurance from her mom, Rissy explores other ways to show affection — singing together, sitting close, holding wings, feather fives. This book shares the important message: that you are not required to hug and kiss friends or even family members in a sweet, funny, and comfortable way. Includes information at the end to encourage caregivers to continue conversations about consent and boundaries.
Slug Needs a Hug by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross (Illustrator)
‘Is she never snuggly / because I am so ugly?’ Slug worries. When it begins to bug slug that his mom doesn’t hug him, he leaves home to find out why. Kitten says he should be furrier, Bird says he needs a beak. Soon, Slug looks completely different – and rather silly. In the end, we learn the importance of direct communication. Slug’s mom reassures him that “I love you as you are.” As to hugging, if she could, she would but neither of them have arms. Shows the value of being ourselves and sharing what we are thinking, as well as finding mutually agreeable ways to show love and caring.
Don’t Hug Doug (He doesn’t like it) by Carrie Finison and Daniel Wiseman (Illustrator)
In the author’s own words, “Doug states, repeatedly but also cheerfully and without hesitation, that he doesn’t want a hug. Not a hello hug, or a goodbye hug. Not a game-winning home run hug, or a dropped ice-cream cone hug, or even a birthday hug. My hope is that readers can use the book to practice both asking and denying (or granting) consent in their own lives, and declaring how they’d like to show affection, as Doug declares that he prefers to high five.”
Can I give you a squish? by Emily Neilson
Kai is a little mer-boy who’s big on hugs–or “squishes,” as he and his mama call them. Not everyone’s a fan of Kai’s spirited embrace though, like the puffer fish, who swells up “like a water balloon, which is what puffer fish do when they are scared or upset.” Kai feels awful. But with the help of his friends, he soon learns that “every fish likes their own kind of squish.”
More than Fluff by Madeline Valentine
Yes, Daisy is fluffy–she’s a chick after all. Her friends want to pet her, squeeze her, and tell her how cute she is. But Daisy doesn’t want to be hugged or kissed all the time. She is angry, “I am more than fluff!” When Daisy hurts a friend while trying to avoid unwanted attention her mother steps in and tells her it’s time for her to learn to use her words to set boundaries. Kids may relate to how other animals do not respect Fluffy’s personal space because she is small and fluffy. They will enjoy how she learns to communicate what she does and does not want.
Miles is the Boss of His Body by Samantha Kurtzman-Counter and Abbie Schiller
Miles is excited about celebrating his sixth birthday. He loves his family, but he is not loving their birthday pinches, noogies and patting, squeezes and tickles …”Everybody, cut it out! I’m six years old and I’m the BOSS OF MY BODY!” Miles yells, before stomping to his bedroom. Miles feels confused and worries that he may be in trouble. But his family is proud of him. No one should touch you in ways you don’t want to be touched, his mom says. You can decide what feels right, his dad says.
How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, Giselle Potter (Illustrator)
As a young girl, Temple Grandin loved folding paper kites, making obstacle courses, and building lean-tos. But she really didn’t like hugs. Temple wanted to be held—but to her, hugs felt like being stuffed inside the scratchiest sock in the world. She wondered if she would she ever get to enjoy the comfort of a hug? Then one day, Temple had an idea. She didnt like hugs from people…but what if she built a hug machine? Her story invites us to think about what we mean by “hug”, why we may want or not want a “hug”, and different ways to “hug” ourselves and others.
and one more!
While We Can’t Hug (A Hedgehog and Tortoise Story) by Eoin McLaughlin (Author), Polly Dunbar (Illustrator)
Hedgehog and Tortoise were the best of friends. They wanted to give each other a great, big hug. But they weren’t allowed to touch.
“Don’t worry,” said Owl. “There are lots of ways to show someone you love them.” And indeed, the two friends wave to each other, blow kisses, sing songs, dance around and write letters. Even though they can’t hug and they can’t touch, they both know that they are loved. A great addition to our hug book shelf especially with social distancing!
The first ten books on this list can be viewed as a pdf here: Ten Books about Hugs, Touch, and Choice to read with young children