I picked up the board book Hug, by Jez Alborough, thinking Kyle would appreciate the sweet illustrations of a chimp looking for a hug.
Here is the description of the book from Amazon:
Bobo needs a hug. But his friends don’t seem to understand. “Hug,” he implores, time and again. Time and again his puzzled pals—from the smallest chameleon to the tallest giraffe—shrug and cuddle with their jungle mothers. As the lonely chimp’s plea escalates, his friends grow concerned. Can the elephants lead Bobo to his heart’s desire?
Through the first 8 spreads, the chimp becomes more and more distressed looking for a hug, until he ends up sitting on a rock, apparently crying his eyes out while all the other animals look at him with concern. Up until this point, I had talked with Kyle about how the chimp was sad because he did not have a hug.
When we reached the page showing the little chimp crying, Kyle surprised me by slamming the book shut. I looked at him and noticed that Kyle was near tears. He was overwhelmed with compassion for this poor little chimp in a book. He impressed me further by saying, “sad. hugs. no.”
So much empathy and understanding from such a little boy. Not yet five years old, and he gets it.
I didn’t want Kyle to feel troubled, so I quickly opened the book and showed him the next few pages where Bobo finds his mother and happily receives a hug. Kyle’s exhale of relief was audible.
Kyle shows his compassion in other ways too. When he notices me crying on occasion, he will look sadly to the ground, then glance up periodically just with his eyes, keeping his head bowed, until I assure him I am okay. The look on his face makes me melt into a million pieces.
Often when he wants a toy his baby brother is playing with, Kyle will find another toy to trade and then rather than taking the toy away, he first gives his brother the trade.
That isn’t to say it’s always this way–Kyle still has his moments to be sure. He doesn’t seem to mind when his baby brother cries after Kyle pushes him down. It’s still a game of cause and effect. He’s learning though, just like the toy trading. That much is a learned skill.
The rest of it is innate. Kyle astounds me sometimes with his sixth sense of empathy beyond my own or my understanding. He added an element of compassion to a simple board book. I can’t wait to see how his gift continues to flourish.