Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis are in top form in That’s NOT a Hippopotamus! All the characters from every preeschool or junior school class are there: the know-it-all, the slightly crazed, the over-eager, and of course the boy who says very little, but notices a lot.
The book starts as the kids arrive at ‘Don’s Safari,’ and our know-it-all notices that there doesn’t seem to be a ‘Hippopotamus’ sign on the wall with all the other animals. Don takes them to where the hippo usually hangs out – but oh no! The hippo has gone missing! Then begins our romp around the wildlife park to find the hiding hippo; via the giraffes, elephants, a snake, a skunk and more – each child certain they’ve got him this time. Meanwhile our hero, Liam, tries to quietly draw attention to the hippo, with no luck, as this harried teacher is on the run.
MacIver’s rhyme in Hippopotamus is, as always, impeccable. She never plays a rhyme straight, but bounces around and has fun with the words:
Golly, Miss! A lot amiss.
A missing hippopotamus!
Good thing we’re here. The best, hands-down,
of hippo-hunters in the town.
Sarah Davis’ oblivious teacher manages to be all business and overwhelmed at the same time. The children are varied and wild, with every hairstyle under the sun represented, and every fashion as well. She always matches text with illustrations well, but this story is told as much in the illustration as in the text, and it’s fantastic to see such a seamless interaction between illustrator and writer. There is much more showing than telling: always the mark of an excellent picture book.
MacIver’s books are a firm favourite with both of my boys. 5-year-old Dan was an immediate fan of this book, and was incredulous as he realised, gradually, that the Hippopotamus was on every spread. As his Dad came in he was like ‘And there’s this Hippo, and he’s on every page, and nobody even notices…’ He’s a book kid, but the bubbling is always fantastic to see.
Take this book home for your own little hippo-hunter, or buy it in for your school library or class. It would make a perfect introduction to a study of wildlife (the notion of big, small, colourful are all explored), or a book to hype the class up for an outing to the zoo. I’m sure this will remain a favourite in this household for years to come.
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
That’s NOT a Hippopotamus
by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis
Published by Gecko Press
Note: For another great hippo book, check out Margaret Mahy’s The Boy Who Was Followed Home (Puffin) 9780143504375