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Thatcham-born author's bear hug from Florida

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It was seeing members of her own family and their friends’ children struggling during the Covid pandemic that made Melissa Cannioto, born in Thatcham, but now living in Florida, want to write The Bear and The Hug.

“I wanted a way to explain the world to them and along came Bear and his missing hugs,” she told Newburytoday's CAROLINE FRANKLIN. “The pandemic left so many people unable to see their loved ones.”

In this picture book for young children, illustrated by the author, Bear emerges after a long sleep only to find the world is not as he left it.

Bear and The Hug
Bear and The Hug

Instead of welcoming him, his friends keep their distance and Bear learns that in a world where hugs don’t exist sometimes it is necessary to be brave.

As a child, Melissa always enjoyed writing – she went to Trinity School followed by taking an English degree at the University of Warwick.

Now she enjoys writing poetry as gifts for friends and family.

After a time working for Vodafone, she took what she describes as “a brave step” and moved to the US, where she met her husband, a USAF pilot.

“As a military family,” she says, “we’ve seen first-hand the impact that distance has on young people,” but her story will also, she hopes, help a child who is going through a difficult time for whatever reason.

The future holds a lot of travelling, something she is enthusiastic about, while her next planned adventure is climbing Kilimanjaro.

Having moved to the US, this author understands only too well the sadness of being unable to hug some of those you love.

Meanwhile, her hope is that the children who read the book (available through WH Smith at £16.99) will be “left with the clear message that hope – and the love and support of friends and family – will always exist in the world”.

And so say all of us.

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