So, I’m throwing another 2017 book into this New Favorites mix. A book about misconceptions and a special friendship between a girl and an enormous beast. Todays’ book is Hattie & Hudson by Chris Van Dusen, 2017.

What is it about?

Hattie loves to explore. One morning she is out on the lake in her canoe and is so inspired by all the nature she is seeing, she begins to sing. And someone was listening.

Deep in the lake, a mysterious creature lives. He never ventured to the surface until the day he was surprised to hear something other than motors. Hattie’s song intrigues him and he breaks out to find the singer. Hattie and the creature stare at each other, but neither are afraid. And then someone screamed.

While Hattie wasn’t afraid, other lake revelers are. The town is thrown into chaos and they meet to decide how best to get rid of the creature. Hattie is so drawn by the monster’s friendly face, she determines to find out more about him. The creature feels the same about Hattie and her singing. The two meet in the night in the lake and a friendship is begun. They realize they have to do something to change the townspeople’s fears and misconceptions about the monster Hattie has named Hudson. A plan is formed and they work to save, not only Hudson in his home, but their special friendship.

Why I picked it

While the story is lovely and the friendship between Hattie and Hudson is sweet, the real reason I picked this book is the amazing illustrations. We are already big fans of Chris Van Dusen around here, thanks to his illustrations for the Mercy Watson series and The Circus Ship which are both favorites. Chris’ skill for illustrating is mind-blowing. He painted all of the illustrations for Hattie & Hudson in gouache and the depth, color, and dimension he achieves amazes me. I love the style of his characters and their intense facial expressions. I love the folds of fabric he achieves with paint! And Hudson, while wondrously enormous, is incredibly tender in his expression. Everything in Van Dusen’s illustrations is almost realistic while feeling animated at the same time.

Who will love this?

I would definitely peg this book for the regular picture book audience of 5-8 or even a little older with the depth of the story, the age of Hattie, and the amount of text for the story. Just a heads up for other sensitive readers: My 4 year old loves this book except for one page which she refuses to look at. It is the first time Hattie meets Hudson and he is just barely visible below the surface, but his yellow eyes are glowing in the water. She is terrified of that spread! But she loves the book and she is known for an overly vivid imagination. My 6 year old however is currently adoring of dinosaurs and Hudson meets all her needs for gigantic creatures. She loves this one.

Bonus Gift Pairings

If you don’t already own other Van Dusen books, that would be my first pairing for this book. The Circus Ship is a particular favorite in our home. Other gift ideas would be a classic Lego set that you can create your own monster with like this! I would also recommend a kid gouache set so they can try to make amazing illustrations like Hattie & Hudson too!