Jen Betton's make her author-illustrator debut this June with HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG.
I had a chance to meet Jen at the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (NESCBWI) annual conference in April and read her beautiful book. Jen's art is gorgeous in this book!
Wanna see my favorite spread?
I mean... What a composition, right?! And that green shadow! But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Here's a synopsis of the story:
Everyone needs hugs, even if they're prickly.
When Hedgehog wakes up feeling down in the snout and droopy in the prickles, he knows a hug will make him feel much better. But none of his animal friends are eager to wrap their arms around Hedgehog's prickles, and he's too smart to fall for Fox's sly offer.
Then Hedgehog gets a surprise: Another animal in the forest is feeling exactly the same way.
Luckily, both are kind and brave enough for the perfect hug.
Jen came by to share the book trailer for HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG with all of us.
Play the video below, then scroll down to read as Jen finishes my sentences and shares how some of the art came together for the story.
JEN BETTON FINISHES MY SENTENCES:
The idea for Hedgehog Needs a Hug first came from... reading Library Lion, written by Michele Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. It’s such a genius story about a lion (loud creature) who loves the library (quiet place). I loved that inherent conflict, and started brainstorming creatures who might want something that is inherently hard for them to attain. So a hedgehog might want a hug.
In the story... I could have gone with a few different endings – I wanted Hedgehog to get his hug, but with who? Another hedgehog (someone just like him), an armadillo or turtle (someone who wouldn’t be hurt by his prickles)? And I think those would have been fine solutions, but what resonated the most was having Hedgehog choose to give a hug to someone who also felt rejected – Skunk. That added an element of empathy and kindness, which felt right to me.
The illustrations in the story... were a lot of fun to work on. The first fox image was the trickiest one for me – trying to get the curling pose to look right while maneuvering around the gutter. I redrew that one image more than any other in the book! I watched a bunch of fox videos on YouTube, got a great critique from an illustration group I’m in, and ended up making a model to get the drawing right! It’s my favorite piece in the book.
One thing I hope readers will take from this story is... it’s ok to feel down, it’s ok to ask for what you think might help you feel better. And if you look around you might find someone else who needs the same thing. I hope my littlest readers find the story fun and relatable, and maybe consider who else around them might be feeling the same way and need a hug, smile, or friend.
The best hugs come from... my one year old. She’s so small, she can’t really put her arms around me, but she’ll run up with her little arms sticking out and flop her head on me – my leg, my shoulder. It’s the opposite of a bear hug, but it melts me every time.
THE ART OF HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG:
And now... a chance to let the art do the talking. Jen shared some process shots leading to the final art. I hope you'll enjoy this closer look at how Jen's art came together.
Thanks for sharing with us today, Jen!
Jen Betton loves to draw and make up stories with her pictures. In Kindergarten she got into trouble for drawing gifts on a picture of Santa, and she has been illustrating ever since. She wrote and illustrated HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG, published with Penguin-Putnam, and she illustrated TWILIGHT CHANT, written by Holly Thompson, published with Clarion.She has a BA in English, and a BFA and MFA in Illustration. She lives in Dallas with her family.
You can see more of her work at www.jenbetton.com.