I Need a Hug

 

Title: I Need a Hug
Author/Illustrator: Aaron Blabey
Published: Scholastic, 2015

 

Have I mentioned how much I love the Scholastic book order? Like, my kids enjoy it, but I kind of love it on a different level. When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money, so I was *sometimes* allowed to get a book or two. (Side note: the top three best purchases I ever made from the Scholastic book order were: a novel about Helen Keller; the behind-the-scenes pictorial review of Full House, as written by DJ Tanner herself; and a scratch-and-sniff sticker book – which my mother threw out, but I’m totally over it and don’t think about it on a daily basis or anything.)

Ahem.

Anyway, my kids are allowed to get a few books with each order. (Alright, alright…more than a few. But, to be fair, some of them are for me. Wait, that doesn’t sound better. Never mind.)

So. The most recent order included this book by Aaron Blabey. Both of my girls were able to recognize his art style, and immediately said, “That’s the guy who wrote Thelma the Unicorn!” Yes, indeed. We love Thelma in this house, and we were hoping to feel the same way about this book.

Here’s what we liked:

  1. The art is, as usual, hilarious. The characters are adorable and I love the porcupine. His wide-eyed, slightly panicky look speaks to me on many levels.
  2.  The rhyming text. I think the fact that the text rhymes and is humorous helps this story along because without it, it would feel like just another “porcupine isn’t getting any love” story (See: No Hugs for Porcupine, How Do You Hug a Porcupine, related: Hedgehog Needs a Hug). The concept isn’t unique, but the execution is good.
  3.  The girls liked the ending, where the snake and porcupine were hugging. The porcupine found love. Aw.

I thought the book was sweet, but definitely for a younger crowd. My two are almost *too* old for it. Especially V (who is fully obsessed with the BSC graphic novels). This book would be nice for a preschool or kindergarten, though.

So did we love the porcupine as much as Thelma? Well, no. But will we read I Need a Hug again? Definitely.

Mama’s review: B+
Vivi’s review: I really liked the art. Especially Ken the moose!
Lily’s review: That porcupine finally found a friend. That was the best part.

Thank You, Mr. Panda

 

Title: Thank You, Mr. Panda
Author/Illustrator: Steve Antony
Published: Scholastic, 2018

Mr. Panda, Mr. Panda, Mr. Panda. We have to talk. First, let me just say that I was 100% on your side in Please, Mr. Panda. I, like you, am a bit of a stickler for manners. I couldn’t believe those animals, just demanding donuts like that’s how we do things around here.  I think giving the donuts to the lemur was totally the right idea and I applaud your judgement. What an upstanding panda, said I to myself.

And then I read this book.

Mr. Panda, what the heck, dude?  Have your lost your furry mind?

For those of you who haven’t read this instalment in the Mr. Panda series, here’s a quick overview:

  1. Mr. Panda is back! He’s accompanied by his buddy, Lemur. They are walking around giving out presents. So far, so good.
  2. The presents are as follows (see if you can see the problem here):
    Mouse: overly large sweater
    Octopus: six socks
    Elephant: says she’ll open it later, appears to be donuts based on end picture.
    Mountain goat: extremely long scarf
    Lemur: extra-large undies
  3. After each animal receives their less-than-well-thought-out gift, Lemur reminds them “It’s the thought that counts.”

OK, so here’s my issue: the gifts didn’t appear to be thought out at ALL. Why would you get a mouse a very large sweater, Mr. Panda? Don’t you know the size and/or preferences of your friends?  As someone who prides herself on giving gifts people will like, it irks me to have to be all enthusiastic about a gift that was clearly last-minute/not purchased with the receiver’s enjoyment in mind.

I mean, I get it. We want kids to be grateful for what they get, even if that thing is disappointing/not what they wanted/not what they hoped for/kind of lame. But…c’mon. The octopus has TWO missing socks, peeps. Two. Did Mr. Panda not even remember the number of arms his friend has?

Anyway, I have two related anecdotes.

  1. When my little brother was five, my nana gave him an RC car. He LOVED it. He wanted nothing more than that gift. It was the first gift he opened, and my poor aunt had to follow up with…a turtleneck. My brother, being the polite little fellow he was, opened the turtleneck, gave it the most cursory glance possible and flung it over his shoulder while saying “Thanks, it’s just what I always wanted!” and continued playing with the car. Thankfully, my aunt has an excellent sense of humour and laughed it off. So, points to Ravenclaw for good manners…but…his heart really wasn’t in it.
  2. A few years ago, an individual (who shall not be named) gave out random ornaments to our family at Christmas. They were all EXACTLY the same and purchased from the dollar store, but this person made a really big deal about having to give each person a ‘special’ one and awaiting our gushing thanks. (This was not a child handing these out, mind you.) We all said, “OH, THANK YOU!” because, manners. But really? It was a last-minute gift that was clearly given no thought whatsoever.

So I get the point. We’ve all got to be grateful for any gift. But by the same token, we need to think about those that we’re giving to and really consider what they might like. I honestly thought the end of the story was going to involve the animals swapping the gifts and then everyone thanking each other. Maybe Mr. Panda just confused the gifts! Maybe it was all a big mix-up! Label the packages, Mr. P!

Alas, no.

Lily was surprised the book ended when it did. She asked if there were pages missing, so I don’t think she felt the issues were adequately resolved. I kind of have to agree.

Mr. Panda, we WANTED to love this book as much as we love Please, Mr. Panda (which is a lot), but…there was just something missing in this one. Mr. Panda doesn’t seem to get the idea of joyful giving, and generally seems to be giving a big, furry middle finger to the critters he’s purchased presents for.

And that’s not good manners at all, Mr. Panda.

Mama’s Review: 3/5 pandas  (most of those pandas are for the art, which is fantastic)

Lily’s Review: “So that’s just how the story ends? Huh.”