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Reviewed by Savannah Aldridge for Readers' Favorite
Barry Needs a Hug by Sean Fournier is a funny, quirky, and sweet story about learning to be comfortable with who you are. One day Barry the cactus realizes that he has never been hugged. Wanting to experience an embrace, Barry finds his friends and asks for hugs. Unfortunately, his friends decline because they worry that Barry’s cactus spikes will poke them or mess up their things. Heartbroken, Barry finds a wishing potion and wishes that his prickles will go away. But when he returns to his friends, he finds them stuck in a situation that can only be fixed with his special, sharp barbs. Barry can save the day, and his friends tolerate the prickles to give him a big hug.
While I was immediately won over by the title and art style on the cover, this book ended up being a full win for me. Sean Fournier does an excellent job of blending playful, rhyming humor with the theme of rejection and the pain of being different. The adorable characters included in Barry Needs a Hug are unique and expressive in a way that made me want to pore over the artwork as an adult. The plot, with its strange twists (sentient plants, a magic potion, and a caper involving giant bubbles), is exactly the sort of whimsical storytelling that brings a picture book to life. This story is an easy beginner’s read for a kid, but I recommend parents, teachers, and loved ones read it aloud to enjoy Barry’s journey to loving himself as he is.