by Patrick McDonnell
My husband is a huge Mutts fan and wouldn't let me pan a book of McDonnell's even if he were capable of writing a bad one. Though this one leans a tad toward the pedestrian, if I can avoid getting shot at for saying so. Still, if I could say as much in so little space, I'd bottle his talent, sell stock in it, and retire to my own island.
So Hug Time doesn't rate with my all-time favorite of his, The Gift of Nothing, but it's a fine little book about dispensing full-frontal, no-holds-barred hugs. I don't know all the Mutts characters (being a relative newcomer to the McDonnell orbit), but a little kitty named Jules sets off on a round-the-world trip wearing a favorite sweater and carrying a hug-to-do list.
In rhyming quattrains, he meets up with a variety of animals, more than a few on the endangered list, and gives 'em a big ol' squeeze:
Exploring the rain forest by foot and canoe,
Jules discovered a species brand-new.
Kneeling, he whispered, "We welcome you."
Off to India--with its tigers so few,
Finding one is hard to do.
Okay, so there are better rhymers out there, and McDonnell isn't above some blatant sentimentality, especially considering his famed fondness for animals (he's on the board of directors of The Humane Society of the United States, among other accomplishments).
There's no real plot here--no conflict or mounting drama or discernible character arc. Still, 'tis the season for such things, and you could do worse than put a hug in someone's stocking.