Nobody Hugs a Cactus – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

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!

Text/illustrations ⓒCarter Goodrich

When Hank tells the cowboy to keep off his grass, the cowboy responds:

“What grass?

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.  

Text/illustrations ⓒCarter Goodrich

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.

15 thoughts on “Nobody Hugs a Cactus – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

  1. ptnozell says:

    Loved the back story & your trip down memory lane (who knew – I worked at IBM for a summer [I grew up in the birthplace of IBM], but fled the mainframes for the liberal arts). And I laughed aloud to learn that you, too, forget why or when you requested a PB from the library! My “to request” list now numbers 50!

    What a terrific character to explore the “prickliness” of finding friendship. I’ve added it to my list, and hope to remember why when it arrives!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      So, you escaped to the liberal arts from IBM world. It’s very strange to think that we’re now all holding computers more powerful than mainframes in our hands. And make sure nothing falls off that request list. I’m sure it’s packed with gems!

  2. Joanna says:

    Man, I enjoyed hearing about your desert time, and love the house.

    This sounds so quirky, and I love that the protagonist is a cactus. The illustrations are badass!

  3. Beth Anderson says:

    Love the art. My cactus anecdote is that when my dog was a puppy, she apparently wanted to impress upon us that we shouldn’t leave her all day to go to work, and she ate an entire cactus garden dish – followed by a stick of butter off the counter chaser. That’s always been puzzling…why would you take a second bite of a cactus garden??

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