Wally Wants To Hug

illus. by Rebecca Ashdown. 32p. little bee. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781499804041.
PreS-K—Joosse and Ashdown have created a cuddly and sensitive boa constrictor named Wally. He comes from a happy family who love to show their affection for one another. Wally wants to hug his classmates at school, but his animal friends are frightened. Wally feels isolated, so he seeks help from his family. His brother reminds him of the harsh facts about boa constrictors and their hard squeezes, while his mother advises him to just be his cuddly self, believing that his schoolmates will come around soon. However, Wally discovers that even after being his most creative and charming self, his friends still won't hug him. It is Wally's tears, along with his promise not to squeeze hard, that finally convinces his school friends to accept a hug. The story is sweet, and the bit of suspense at the end—will Wally get carried away when he finally gets a change to hug his friends?—will have children listening intently and hoping for the best. Ashdown's illustrations are bright and happy, and they are particularly endearing when depicting Wally with his round glasses and hopeful smile. Wally's silly squeezing antics on the end pages will bring a smile to every reader's face.
VERDICT A delightful read-aloud about the importance of inclusion in spite of daunting differences; perfect for preschoolers and kindergartners.

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