social-emotional, spotlight

Spotlight – Don’t Hug Doug/Rissy No Kissies

Don’t Hug Doug (He Doesn’t Like It) (Penguin Random House)
By Carrie Finison
Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman

For ages: 3-7
Don’t Hug Doug introduces us to the bespectacled young Doug. We learn about his interests and personality and the fact that he doesn’t like hugging anyone besides his mother. The narrator reminds us that this is not because Doug is mad; he doesn’t like hugs. Further, into the book, we’re introduced to people of all genders, ages, and races and shown how they each have their hug preferences. As if anticipating questions from young readers, the narrator informs us that the only way we can know what people prefer is to ask them kindly. 

I love this book so much because it approaches consent with such a positive mindset. This isn’t about anyone trying to hurt your feelings if they reject a hug; it’s just how they want to interact and show affection. Even better is that the book never explains why Doug prefers this. It’s a fantastic reminder for children and adults alike that we aren’t entitled to know why a person has a preference. All we should do is respect what is expressed to us. 

Daniel Wiseman’s artwork is highly colorful, with people represented in natural and abstract shades. Every face is full of kindness & gentleness, so children are introduced to consent without a sense of judgment. There are creative pages, like Doug’s illustration of two robots hugging with his labels about what he doesn’t like about the hug (“Too squeezy,” “Too smooshy”). I read this book to my niece, and she did have many questions about why a person wouldn’t want a hug. However, she was never distressed, just confused because she likes hugging and physical closeness. It’s fantastic to see this topic finally being addressed in children’s literature.

Activities

1. This book provides a perfect opportunity to talk about the people in your immediate household and their boundaries. With your child/student, you could list the people who live in your home and ask them how they prefer to greet your child. Jotting these down and reading/reflecting on the list can help bring home the book’s lesson.

2. Roleplay scenarios with your child/student. You can pretend to be different people they encounter in life and have them practice asking for consent to hug/high five/shake hands/however your students want to greet the person.

3. Have your child design and draw a poster about this book. The sign needs to concisely explain what the book is and why a person should buy it for their children.


Rissy No Kissies (Carolrhoda Books)
By Katie Howes
Illustrated by Jess Engle

For ages: 4-8
Lovebirds are supposed to show lots of affection hence their name. However, Rissy is a young lovebird with limits about what they are comfortable with. Rissy will hold wings or give hugs, but she doesn’t like giving a kiss on the cheek when she sees friends and family. Some people don’t understand and aren’t very polite in their responses. Miss Bluebird says Rissy is just confused. Grandma gets mad and tells Rissy’s parents she’s being rude. There’s a moment where Rissy starts to feel bad and asks her mother if she’s being rude. Thankfully, Rissy’s mama lovebird is a very understanding avian and reminds her daughter that boundaries are a good thing. However, she can’t control others’ reactions to her boundaries, and that’s for them to figure out.

Rissy No Kissies approaches consent a little differently than Don’t Hug Doug in that it addresses the potential reactions children might get from others, especially adults. They are assured through an understanding adult that boundaries are lovely. As a teacher, I was very aware of what students preferred when being praised or greeted and respected those boundaries. Now kisses on the cheek aren’t a thing in my capacity as a teacher, but hugs can sometimes be. I’ve never understood adults who have angry reactions to such a simple request. I think in part it may be with how children’s autonomy is viewed in the United States, mainly that many Americans sadly don’t see kids as having bodily autonomy. 

Author Katie Howe tells her story in simple rhyme that is very infectious. That playful nursery rhyme sing-song rhythm assists in helping soften what could be some lightly intense interactions between characters. The people upset about Rissy’s preference are never framed as bad, just lacking understanding about the topic. Artist Jess Engle’s watercolor illustrations present the lovebirds as lovely plump little creatures. Everything feels warm and welcoming, a perfect accompaniment for discussions about bodily agency for your young readers. It’s never too early to learn how to set boundaries.

Activities

1. Have your child create a story map using the simple Beginning, Middle, End structure. Make sure the details they share are centered on Rissy. This is also an excellent opportunity to discuss what evidence shows us Rissy is the central character in the book.

2. Because Rissy is told in rhyme, it allows play with sounds. Find pairs of rhyming words. Write them down. Have your child underline which letters represent the sounds that rhyme. (e.g. sick/chick). See if your student can think of additional words with the same rhyme.

3. Have your child reflect on when they felt pressure to hug or kiss someone as a greeting when they didn’t want to. Help them write a few sentences they are comfortable saying to express their boundaries. Then the student can practice those with you in a roleplay scenario.

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