Who couldn’t use a hug?

Hugs are the best, the absolute best. I love them, crave them, and not to brag, but I am renowned for mine. I have letters of reference. 

The previous 2+ years have made the want and need for hugs much more apparent. 

In the before times, I would hug most anybody, anywhere, and at anytime, but with, what I think was, a pretty keen sense of appropriateness. That is I think I was intuitive enough to tell whether I should go in with a hug or a hand shake or a fist bump. I may have misread some cues along the way.

As we emerge from that dark, fuzzy, world of caution and suspect, and find ourselves among folks we like, love, adore, we may need some reminders about the art of hugging.

Ellie Peterson’s new book, How to Hug a Pufferfish, is a dandy look at that very thing.

Pufferfish is a sweet, lovable character with ‘big o’ bubble eyes,’ and a friendly gap-toothed grin. Who wouldn’t want to go in for a hug? Three friends, an octopus, a lobster and a starfish all would like to. 

But Pufferfish is easily startled and when surprised, instantly inflates into a big, round, what I assume is a defensive shape. 

You should not surprise Pufferfish with a hug. You probably shouldn’t tickle or poke Pufferfish either. 

Maybe Pufferfish would like something other than a hug…a tail shake? A high fin? A tentacle bump? 

Maybe the best thing is to ask Pufferfish if you can give a hug. Who knows?

This is a wonderful book about respect and tolerance even while doing something meant as a kind and loving thing. The different scenarios played out between Pufferfish and friends are easily relatable to every day encounters in our own worlds. Lots to learn and consider for a gregarious hugger like me.

Peterson created the art digitally on an iPad using Procreate. It is big and saturated art in a perfect undersea palette of blues and greens and purples. The environment itself is simple but well defined in colorful and unusual plants in the foreground and silhouetted landscape in the background. There’s a little bit of flotsam scattered on the ocean floor, including a sunken ship that blend nicely into this watery world..

Her characters are expressive and their personalities come through. Their actions and reactions  are endearing and believable, from the joviality and joy of Starfish, Lobster, and Octopus to the look of resignation of Pufferfish after inflating. There is an array of other peripheral, non-speaking characters throughout the book that I think helps define this world as a community.

Lots of fun, things to consider, and a true sense of joy. Loved this book.

~kevan atteberry


  1. Me too, Kevan. Cute book!

  2. Simply delightful!

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