Nobody Hugs a Cactus
By Carter Goodrich
(For readers in Preschool–3rd Grade)
Illustrator Carter Goodrich is familiar to adults via his New Yorker covers and to younger audiences through his character design work in animated features (Coco, Brave, Despicable Me, Finding Nemo, Shrek, etc.). In Nobody Hugs a Cactus he picks a prickly protagonist to paint a tale around: a cactus named Hank who is the sole occupant of a windowsill overlooking a desert. Other desert denizens drop by and try to chat Hank up, but these engagements annoy him. When a cowboy suffers a rude rebuff from Hank the man replies, “Seems to me, somebody just needs a hug. Too bad nobody hugs a cactus.” Even though Hank feels content keeping others at arm’s reach, the cowboy’s remark plants a seed of “what if” in Hank that makes him want to get a hug — but how?
Goodrich’s words and images personify Hank’s feelings and thoughts in a rib-tickling way. The spines on his cactus body match his verbal barbs. These aspects have kept him alone, and that is how he likes it, or so he thought. The cowboy’s remark opens his mind to softer possibilities. The artwork has a soft essence with its muted southwestern palette. The simple and idiosyncratic qualities of this story are what readers will embrace.
For the times your child has their spines out, Nobody Hugs a Cactus is the perfect read. They may even want a hug by the end of the story.