How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine Book Poster Image
Moving tale of Temple Grandin's girlhood pursuit of a hug.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn indirectly about the experience of autism, as well as how observation and curiosity are key to finding solutions to problems. Kids also learn a little about the care of farm animals.

Positive Messages

Be creative. Think outside the box. Be curious about things you don’t understand. Observe the world closely for clues to help solve problems. Kids thrive when they're allowed to explore their passions and interests. Even if you face big challenges as a child, you can grow up to be successful and make lasting contributions to the world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Temple is a great role model. She's curious, perceptive, imaginative, and skilled with art, design, and building. She seeks solutions to problems that no one else has solved. Respectful, compassionate representation of a person with autism who has struggled a lot and experienced great success.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine is a picture book biography about animal scientist Temple Grandin's childhood. The story explores her struggles with autism and centers on Grandin's pursuit of understanding hugs. Young readers will learn about how she experienced autism, hear messages about the importance of discovering and developing your talents, and be encouraged about facing obstacles. An author's note at the end provides biographical information about Grandin and her contributions to the fields of child development, autism treatment, and animal science.

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What's the story?

HOW TO BUILD A HUG: TEMPLE GRANDIN AND HER AMAZING SQUEEZE MACHINE starts with what Temple loves: making kites, building things, and playing with her dog. But she doesn't like scratchy socks, all kinds of noises, and smelly things, and she especially cannot stand hugs. She wants the comfort of a hug; it's just that they feel terrible. Temple is curious about how hugs work and is a meticulous observer of the embraces that people around her share. A summer at her aunt's ranch exposes her to a squeeze box used to calm cattle for a vet exam, and she rushes off to build her own "hug machine," which gives her great comfort for many years. But what will happen when the machine breaks?

Is it any good?

This is a powerful story about Temple Grandin's childhood struggles and how solving her problems creatively led to lasting contributions to the world. Authors Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville begin the book with what Temple loves to do, which lets kids relate to her immediately. That helps them feel compassion when the following pages portray her overwhelming experience of the world. Illustrator Giselle Potter's folk art watercolors are impressively expressive -- especially on the pages that show Temple being overwhelmed at achingly loud, physically uncomfortable, and unbearably smelly stimuli. When she finds peace on a twisted, spinning swing and under couch cushions being stepped on by her sister, you can feel the relief captured on her face.

Young readers will love the farm animals and admire a kid who uses her imagination to help herself. The book will encourage both kids with autism and neurotypical kids to aspire to their own unique greatness and honor people who overcome significant obstacles. That said, the authors avoid directly naming autism in the story, so parents might want to get more specific and talk about the themes raised in the book. The author's note is a great jumping-off point for conversations, as it has helpful information about Grandin and her life and work as an adult.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Grandin's experience of autism as a child in How to Build a Hug. What challenges did she face? What helped her overcome them?

  • Grandin was both scared of and interested in hugs. How did her curiosity and observations help her create her hug machine?

  • Do you know any kids or adults whose brains work differently than yours? How do you connect with them?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strong female characters and stories of empathy

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