Book Review: Benny Doesn’t Like to be Hugged by Zetta Elliot and Illustrated by Purple Wong

Do you like to be hugged? 

Not everyone does, which is the case for Benny, an autistic boy who likes many things, but hugs are not one of them. In Benny Doesn’t Like to be Hugged, the unnamed narrator tells the unique characteristics and needs of her friend Benny. For example, Benny knows many facts about stars including their names and what makes them twinkle. She shares that Benny gets fussy sometimes and that he does not like loud noises which can make him cry. There are many things that the narrator points out that make Benny different from others and that he often needs things done a certain way but, in the end, she states that she doesn’t care that Benny is different “Because true friends accept each other just the way they are.”

Benny Doesn’t Like to be Hugged is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book written in rhyming verse that sends the message that everyone is unique and special just as they are. While the focus of this story is specifically on a boy with autism, it encourages young readers to accept and befriend everyone whose needs and habits are different from their own. One thing that I appreciate about this book is that not only does it address neurodiversity, but each page is also filled with illustrations of racially, ethnically, and ability diverse children. This would be a great book to use in early childhood classrooms to help children understand the varying needs and accommodations of their classmates. This short picture book is a great introduction to hypersensitivity, diversity, and special needs for young readers.

Sarah Downhour is a graduate student in the Youth Development Leadership program. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time outdoors and traveling.

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