If you're in the market for a Valentine's Day gift, you won't go wrong with A Book of Hugs. Truly a book for all ages, it will delight preschoolers as well as sentimental or romantic moms, dads, teens, even adult sweethearts. Author Dave Ross starts with a few dictionary definitions (hug, hugger, and huggable), then explains that "there are all kinds of hugs in the world," which he proceeds to briefly define and illustrate.

Everyone knows about bear hugs and daddy hugs, but did you know that "fish hugs are very cold and seldom returned"? (Ross adds a useful PS: "Never hug a shark.") And you won't be surprised to know that fraidy cat hugs, such as when a frightened child clings to his mother, make you feel safe.

Laura Rader's gentle illustrations of embracing animals add to the affection and humor. For instance, few would want to be confronted by Great Aunt Mary of the Great Aunt Mary Hug; Mary is a fashion plate of kitsch, ready to squeeze and plant bright lipstick on her nephew. And Rader's seven small illustrations of bunnies demonstrating "Mommy hugs" -- captioned with "You can never hug a Mommy too much" -- would make a lovely poster.

Just when the going threatens to be too sweet, Ross and Rader throw in a little zinger, such as "Never hand-hug [shake hands] with dirty hands unless you both have dirty hands." One might never know there are so many kinds of hugs; from ice-cube hugs to lamppost hugs and report card hugs, they're all deftly explained. This most affectionate of volumes ends with a handful of "Facts &and Hints About Hugging," such as "A snuggle is a longish hug" and, wise words for wintry February, "Never hug tomorrow when you could hug today." Pair this book up with a box of chocolates, and share with the one you hug the most.

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