If, after viewing this cover, you’re not already half in love with this book and its topic, capybaras, then there may be no hope for your soul.
The rainforest was alive with squeaks,
squawks, grunts, growls, hisses, harrumphs,
and frenetic feather-and-fur-flying fury.
It was quite the rumpus.
No one is happy about this noise. It makes them quite upset, but no one knows how to stop it. The rumpusing, that is. It’s so disturbing it even disrupts their dreams.
Until one day…
There was a blurbly blowing of bubbles…blurb blurb
…a fwippa fwip of flickering ears…fwippa fwip!
…and a shookita shimmy of a shaking booty bottom. Shookita! Shimmy!
The rumpus paused.
Enter the capybara in all her yawning, floofing glory!
A very gumpy river turtle demands to know exactly what this new critter is. And when the capybara explains and offers up a cuddle, the turtle snaps that it’s “cuddle-hostile” because it’s “hard-shelled, thick-skinned, and turtle-tough!”
This doesn’t phase our hero, the sleepy happy capy. She accepts this rejection while noting that her cuddles don’t de-harden shells, de-thicken skins, or de-toughen turtles. (I love the author’s stylistic choice to use the prefix “de-” instead of using antonyms like soften, thin, or tender. It’s quite funny and fits the tone of the book.)
Well, that capybara is so persuasively reassuring, the turtle decides that maybe a cuddle wouldn’t hurt.
And when the capybara checks in on the turtle’s concern after cuddling, “Are you still tough?” the turtle responds “Tough and contented.”
Note to all the tough kids who think that being cuddly is a weakness.
When she hears the turtle’s response, the capy expresses her happiness by floofing. “Because that’s just what sleepy happy cuddled capys do.”
One by one, each animal in the rainforest grows curious about this cuddling and floofing. The iguana mumbles that cuddles make it uncomfortable. The capy reassures the iguana that “cuddles don’t need to be close,” that “a cuddle is about being together.” So the iguana decides to cuddle in its own way. The capy floofs with happiness.
Enter the macaws, monkeys, otters, frogs, and butterflies, first thinking that all this cuddling is weird, and then deciding that it’s really kind of nice, and that there are different ways to express togetherness…until a crocodile roars through. It looks bad for our hero, until we discovered that even crocodiles might need a little cuddle.
Ahhhhhh, the wild rumpus has quieted. The capy is so happy she—
Can you guess what happens next? (This is where all the kids will want to say “floof!”
But something unexpected happens. A lounge (I’ve decided that this should be the collective noun) of capybaras comes swimming up. And—whoa!—the cuddle-snoozing reaches new heights of floofing.
Folks, here are a few of this book’s hooks:
- The star is a cute, cuddly creature, especially one that FLOOFs!
- Rainforest allure will always be a winner.
- Social and emotional learning abounds — a) that cuddling is good even for the tough, b) that there are all kinds of ways to cuddle, c) that asking for cuddles and accepting the ways that others like to cuddle can make you happy, too, and d) that cuddling can be a form of meditation, a way to quiet your mind and your body. And it’s done in such a brilliant way, it doesn’t feel didactic.
- It’s a fun and funny read aloud that invites child participation (all kinds of wordplay, including onomatopoeia, repetition, and invented words)
- The warm illustration palette is cozy, with expressive animal faces and body language that go from skeptical, angry, and uncomfortable to blissed out nirvana.
- It’s a fabulous book to use to calm a group of kids or to use for bedtime.
- The behaviors shown have been documented in nature, so this story is based on the true social nature of capybaras (let’s hear it for science!). As the author states in a note on the back end papers, capybaras have even been known to hang out with caimans and crocodiles. Who knew?
And if you buy a copy, instead of reading it from the library, you’ll find that the illustrator also includes undies—the book’s case shows a different illustration than its jacket. Bonus! I predict this story is going to get a lot of love from the half pint crowd (and those who love them).
Ask kids to list different ways that people can enjoy being together. Talk about how it’s important to understand how different people might be uncomfortable being hugged or cuddled and how it’s important to ask someone’s permission first.
Make an origami capybara
Title: Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles
Author: Mike Allegra
Illustrator: Jaimie Whitbread
Publisher: Page Street Kids, 2022
Themes: cuddling, capybaras, consent
Ages: Pre-K through 3rd grade
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.
Please check out Vivian Kirkfield’s blog on Monday for the cover reveal of my debut picture book: A RIVER OF DUST: The Life-Giving Link Between North Africa and the Amazon. (Ack! I’m a little nervous. Can you tell??) Eugenia Mello, the illustrator, created such a beautiful book! I can’t wait to share it with you when it releases in July 2023!!