Nathan Sawaya isn’t your conventional fine artist, nor is he your conventional LEGO builder.
Sawaya is known worldwide for helping the world to see LEGO as more than just a building toy, but as a viable and versatile art medium. His surreal pop art sculptures gained many fans through his highly praised The Art of The Brick exhibit and art book.
Therefore, it’s to be expected his debut children picture books, featuring Hugman, aren’t your conventional story based on a toy.
The books are inspired by Sawaya’s famous LEGO graffiti sculpture featuring a little LEGO man hugging various things around him, who affectionately came to be known by admirers as Hugman. His self-published Hugman books feature illustrations by Maarten Lenoir, with the four in the initial series: The Adventures of Hugman, Hugman and the Animals, Hugman Goes to the Museum, and Hugman Makes a Friend.
Hugman, of course, loves to hug, and nothing he can get his little brick arms around is safe from a friendly embrace, be it signposts or trees. Each of he books in the series gives him a new challenge.
The Adventures of Hugman takes him on a journey into the city, where he confronts some cold and unfriendly entities, as well as a group of bully crows. He learns there is always someone there willing to help, thanks to a friendly dog he meets.
Hugman Goes to the Museum gives readers a glimpse at some famous works of art while Hugman befriends a museum guard to help him find his lost pal.
In Hugman and the Animals, Hugman visits a Wildlife Park where he discovers the unique features of different animals, but learns to embrace his own individuality.
The final book in the series, Hugman Makes a Friend, encourages creativity, as well as making new friends overcoming shyness.
At first glance, one might think a series based on a little red brick man who hugs things couldn’t carry an entire story, much less a series of four books, but there’s something a little deeper within the pages. Although the books are intended for ages 2 to 5, Hugman changes and evolves a little with each new story.
Sawaya said in the press release for his books, his exhibitions and his new books tell the story of the human condition.
“They explore the simple yet often complex emotions surrounding events and situations that make us who we are,” he said.
One thing I admired about these books is it doesn’t utilize photos of Sawaya’s sculpture to tell the story (although we do get to see images of the Hugman sculptures at the intro to each book), but instead uses the simple, bright, and colorful illustrations of Lenoir to bring Hugman from familiar street art into a more mobile (and portable) character able to interact freely with those around him.
What I mostly discovered looking through these pages of Hugman’s simple journeys is there are several things young readers need to learn to embrace at some point in their lives, shown in the book:
- Embrace one’s own creative talent. No one is so completely lacking of artistic talent they can’t find some creative outlet for which they can pursue with passion, even if just for themselves.
- Embrace adventure. There is no place like home, but it’s a big world out there. It can be scary and unfamiliar, but it’s waiting to be explored and experienced.
- Embrace those who might not seem “huggable.” Not everyone may want to hug you back, but that’s no reason to give up on them.
- Embrace the fact we can’t overcome every problem on our own. This is the hardest lesson for many young readers who are establishing their confidence and independence. As much as we want, there will be times when we need a helping hand to help us pick up the pieces and put ourselves back together.
- Embrace life. We will face bullies and adversity in our lives. We will face trials and challenges. We will face those who will disagree with things we think or do. We will face times of sorrow, doubt, and anger. We will face much ugliness in life, but we need to venture forward in search of the beauty. There is always… always… something wonderful out there that makes us want to throw our arms around it and celebrate with a big bear hug.
Sawaya said the stories also relate to his own experiences growing up with LEGO. Hugman’s pal, a little boy named Nathan, is a main character in the series.
“I’m happy to get to share my journey with the brick—from childhood toy to fine art medium—through the eyes of a little LEGO friend called Hugman,” he said.
As an added bonus, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Hugman books benefits Art Revolution Foundation helping to put art supplies into schools.
The Hugman series may not be the LEGO story you’d expect, but is certainly is one you would welcome into your children’s library with open arms.
The first four books in the series are now available, with a fifth title expected for release in August. Learn more about Hugman and his adventures at adventuresofhugman.com and the art of Nathan Sawaya at brickartist.com or NathanSawaya.com.
GeekMom Lisa received a copy of the series for review purposes.