Benny Doesn't Like To Be Hugged

illus. by Purple Wong. 42p. Rosetta Pr. Sept. 2017. pap. $10. ISBN 9781548184896.
RedReviewStarToddler-Gr 1—With sweet, colorful illustrations and straightforward text, this book explores acceptance and understanding between two young friends. The titular character falls somewhere on the Autism spectrum, and while the story isn't told from his perspective, readers learn bits and pieces about Benny from his unnamed friend. The characteristics of Benny's Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)—like difficulty understanding joking tones, aversion to loud noises, and issues with sensory processing—define him just as much as his other personality traits: his love of trains, knowledge of everything about stars, and thoughtfulness as a friend. The much-needed message is one of loving others for what makes them unique. In a time when emphasis on social emotional learning is a growing focus in schools and childcare facilities, narratives that model and encourage empathy are increasingly important. Carefully and lovingly crafted by Elliott and Wong, this book includes a beautifully diverse cast of characters. The intentionality of this is noted in Elliott's author's note and is a welcome decision. The simple rhyming text, while imparting a lesson, is not overly didactic and a helpful list of websites directs parents and educators to useful resources. This could also be a conversation starter on the issue of consent.
VERDICT There's an audience of children ready for this title in every library and classroom. A first purchase, particularly for collections with little for or about children with ASD.

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