Not since the aptly titled Hug has there been another picture book of note dedicated to this underrated expression of appreciation, friendship, affection, love and joy. But whereas Bobo, the simian protagonist of Hug, spends most of the book lamenting that he isn’t receiving any, the eponymous Hug Machine here is too busy dishing them out to be hug-less for long. That’s what’s so special about hugs, isn’t it? It’s the gift that gives right back: when you hug someone, you’re also, in a way, simultaneously being hugged.
Any kid who counts snuggling with a book as part of his/her nightly bedtime ritual, should definitely consider him/herself lucky, since there are millions of children out there who unfortunately do not get to enjoy this often taken-for-granted privilege for various reasons. That said, it’s safe to say that the majority of children who do get the opportunity to read, or be read, this wonderful story belong to the fortunate former category.
What makes The Snatchabook particularly successful is not just the fact that the story is highly original and entirely written in rhyming prose that reads beautifully, but that it is structured to be a meta bedtime story about a threat (albeit a not-so-serious one) to bedtime stories. It helps also, of course, that children will have a hard time tearing their eyes away from the seriously staggeringly beautiful illustrations that bring this heartwarming story to life.
At any given moment, a hundred billion things are all happening at the same time: small events like birthday celebrations and holidays, big events like births and deaths, and even non-events like, ahem, fingers tapping on the keyboard typing out a book review. It seems obvious — I mean, just look all around you — but when we’re going about our everyday chores and activities, we’re naturally focused on what we are doing and what is happening to us; rarely does anything jolt us out of our self-absorbed reverie and cause us to stop and think, ‘Hmm, I wonder what else is happening right now…’
Most of the common fears tackled in children’s books tend to be of the imaginary variety, such as monsters in the dark; or they are personal in nature, such as a fear of water, heights, attempting something new, etc. Thus, it’s refreshing to find a book that explores the hard-to-pin-down fear of ostensibly “scary” people that one may encounter in everyday life.