Sometimes a book shows up in my hold stack, and I can’t remember where I heard about it. But I’m always grateful for the surprise.
The book that arrived, NOBODY HUGS A CACTUS, took me down memory lane, and my university years in Tucson, Arizona, where I earned a degree in Industrial Engineering. It took me eight years to work my way through school (with a few detours here and there), but I only worked full-time as an engineer for a couple of years at IBM in Tucson before I and the vast majority of young engineers headed to “the field” to work in marketing. I went through IBM’s rigorous marketing education program and then lasted as a marketing rep in the Washington DC area for another two years, before selling my car and heading off to travel around the world. So much for career planning. But I digress.
In Tucson, I fell in love with the Sonoran Desert. While there, I (and another engineer) bought four acres and an adobe U-shaped house with a central courtyard and a pool out back. Something straight out of the High Chaparral, a TV show I loved as a kid. Well, maybe the pool wasn’t straight out of High Chaparral, but the copper double doors at the entrance made by an unnamed artist, the adobe bricks, the majestic saguaros, and an assortment of scorpions, tarantulas, snakes, coyotes, javelina, quail, cactus owls, and road runners were. At night, you could see the Milky Way. Cue the music to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. This is what the home looks like today. I miss Tucson.
Sorry, I was swept away by finding the house on Google Maps.
Let’s get back to talking about cactus. Not just any old cactus. This one’s named Hank. Look at that sour face.
Hank lives in a pot in a window on a wall.
“It was hot, dry, peaceful, and quiet.
Just the way Hank liked it.”
But along comes Rosie, the Tumbleweed, an eternal bouncing optimist. Hank rebuffs her greeting, along with that of a tortoise, a jackrabbit, a coyote, and then—a cowboy. I LOVE the illustration style!
When Hank tells the cowboy to keep off his grass, the cowboy responds:
Seems to me, somebody needs a hug.
Too bad nobody hugs a cactus.”
Hank is not convinced he needs a hug, even when a lizard stops by. It’s not until we’re in the deepest, darkest part of night that Hank wavers. An owl lands on the roof, startling Hank, and shaking his resolve to remain solitary. But when he offers to give the owl a hug, the owl laughs at him and flies off.
Poor Hank. And when a windstorm blows a paper cup onto his prickles and his arms are too short to remove it himself, what is Hank to do? Who will save him from his predicament? Will Hank ever get a hug?
I’ll give you a hint: The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.
What we have here is a quirky, funny, sweet story about making friends, even if you’re feeling a little bit prickly.
Pair this book with BE A FRIEND by Salina Yoon
Turn rocks into painted cacti
Make a cardboard cactus construction set
Make your own tumbleweeds
Eqpt: White glue, large round/oval balloons, medium cotton string, food coloring or paints, a clothesline/clothespins for drying balloons, gloves if you don’t want to stain your fingers with food coloring.
Process: Mix your glue with paint or food coloring. Dip string in glue, covering completely, make sure the glue saturates the string. Wind string around inflated balloons in desired pattern. Hang dry on clothesline for at least 24 hours. After completely dry, pop the balloon. Voilá! Rosie, the tumbleweed!
Title: Nobody Hugs a Cactus
Author/Illustrator: Carter Goodrich
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2019
Age range: Pre-k to 3rd grade
Themes: friendship, the desert ecosystem
For more perfect picture books, head over to Susanna Hill’s blog.