“I Need a Hug” by Aaron Blabey is a sweet story of a porcupine that just needs a hug but all of the other animals turn him away because of his prickly spikes. The colorful illustrations and rhymes are engaging but the story brings up some great conversations with your students about social interactions, emotions, consent, and more. Your students will love this sweet story about friendship and learning not to judge a book by its cover.
“I Need a Hug” is a short, but funny story with simple rhyming text. The dialogue can help students with making predictions about what the characters might be thinking or saying on the wordless pages. The illustrations lend themselves really well to drawing inferences as they capture the emotions of each character. As each animal takes a moment to think over the porcupine’s request for a hug, students can make inferences about how they feel about the porcupine based on their illustrated reactions. These silent reaction shots not only make the reader laugh but make for great practice in active reading.
The story is a tale about tolerance. It turns out that a porcupine can give a perfectly wonderful hug when its quills are flat and relaxed, but no one stays around long enough to find out. This book has a beautiful message of acceptance and friendship.
Skills to teach with “I Need A Hug”:
- Beginning, middle, end
- Author’s purpose
- Discuss consent and that while the porcupine felt sad the animals did not want to hug, that is their choice and it is okay to say no.
- Talk about other ways to show that you care that may not involve hugging.
- Discuss friendship problems and how to solve them; for example, excluding others, name-calling, not being invited.
- Think of the qualities of a good friend.
5 Favorite Activities for “I Need a Hug”:
1. When Words Are Hurtful:
The porcupine approaches a rabbit, Lou. And lets Lou know he really needs a hug but Lou’s reaction is a quick getaway. The rabbit’s reaction is sure to bring some laughs, I’m sure we can all relate to the rabbit that does not want to hug a porcupine!
Discuss how both Lou and the porcupine might feel. How does the porcupine feel when Lou runs away? And have students discuss or write about a time that someone’s words were hurtful to them.
Could Lou have been more gentle in his approach to letting the porcupine know he does not want to hug? How might Lou be feeling when he is asked for a hug but might not feel comfortable? Just a few short lines into the story can already lead to some really great conversations with your students!
2. Feeling Excluded:
Each of the animals says no to giving the porcupine a hug. The deer, the bear, the rabbit; each has their reasons for saying no to a hug. The porcupine is beginning to feel left out, which is not a great feeling. As the porcupine feels excluded, this is a great opportunity to discuss those feelings with your students. Discuss how they can include someone that may be left out, what you could say to someone that is being excluded?
When you think of things to say and share, students will be aware of situations where they can use these ideas when they or someone else may be feeling left out.
3. When You Need a Hug:
The porcupine never states why he wants a hug, his expression and words just let the reader know that he is in need of a hug. You can talk with your students about times that they feel like they need a hug and who they might turn to.
This is also a great opportunity to talk about ways to find comfort that may not involve direct contact. Some people do not find comfort in giving hugs and may find comfort in other ways and brainstorming ideas together may be a breakthrough for some students that may feel this way.
You can also discuss ways that the animals could say no to the porcupine when they are not comfortable giving a hug. While the porcupine seems like a friend or an animal that is familiar to them, that doesn’t mean that they have to give a hug, but they can choose to be gentle with their words so the porcupine does not feel bad.
4. Qualities of a Good Friend:
The porcupine finds a snake that is also looking for comfort but scares the other animals away. The snake and the porcupine both have unique qualities that the other animals are frightened by but together they make a good match. Their friendship is an unlikely one but their acceptance and tolerance of each other’s unique qualities make them a great match.
Discuss the qualities of a good friend. You can have students write down words or phrases on sticky notes and create an anchor chart to display those qualities.
5. Being a Good Friend:
Porcupine and Snake are able to give each other the comfort that they need. They recognize that the other is in need of a hug and are there for each other. Discuss how you can be there for a friend that is upset. What are some ways you can help comfort a friend that needs it? Students will have different ideas and this is a great time to discuss not only how they like to find comfort, but how they can be there to comfort someone else too.
This is a really cute book to share that may not seem too deep at first glance, it looks like a short but sweet book with rhyming words and fun illustrations. But there is so much more to it and you can bring to life so many important conversations with your kids. Opening a book is like opening the door to so many great ideas and thoughts that students may not have felt comfortable discussing before. There are so many great conversations to have as you read this cute story.
I hope you and your students love it!
You can grab a free one-page guide for using this book in your classroom here:
You can find more of my favorite read-aloud books HERE.
And read more about why I love reading aloud and think it is so important HERE.
You might also like to find activities about self-love.
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