Sonderbooks

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Hannah and Sugar

by Kate Berube


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Hannah and Sugar

by Kate Berube

Review posted November 24, 2018.
Abrams Books for Young Readers, New York, 2016.
Starred Review
Review written in 2016

It seems like the texts of picture books are getting shorter and shorter. But that doesn’t have to mean the stories are left out. This book is an example of minimal text, with no unnecessary words, but a full story with a beginning, middle, and end.

The beginning words are repeated, and we understand that this is the routine, the way things are:

Every day after school, Hannah’s papa picked her up at the bus stop.

And every day after school, Sugar was at the bus stop waiting for Violet P.

Every day after school, Mrs. P. asked Hannah if she wanted to pet Sugar. [We see all the other children happily crowded around Sugar.]

And every day after school, Hannah said, “No, thank you.” [Even with the simplest of illustrations, we can see that Hannah is holding her papa’s hand and feeling hesitant about Sugar.]

Then one day, Sugar isn’t there. Sugar’s been missing since the night before. The whole neighborhood searches for Sugar, and variation in the illustrations shows how they look everywhere.

Now, it’s predictable what happens next. However, I like that before it happens, Hannah is sitting on her stoop watching the stars come out and has a reflective moment.

She listened to the sound of the trains in the distance and she wondered how it would feel to be lost in the dark. She decided that it would be scary and that if she were lost she would be sad and probably hungry.

So when Hannah does find Sugar in the bushes, with her leash tangled in the branches, we believe that Hannah will get up the courage to do something.

I like the description of their encounter:

Hannah closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

Then she gently reached out her trembling hand.

Sugar sniffed Hannah’s hand and rubbed her face along it.

The untangling of the leash is implied in the pictures, but what we do see is a happy Hannah and a dog who’s very glad to see her.

And it’s all wrapped up into a nice tidy bow with the new routine where Hannah gets off at the bus stop and Sugar is waiting for Violet P. and for Hannah, too.

This picture book works on many levels. Yes, it would be good for kids who are timid around dogs, but it also works as a simple story for any child with plenty of room for talking about feelings. The illustrations are simple, but convey worlds of emotion even so. (How do these brilliant artists do it, anyway?)