Hippos Are Huge in Picture Books

BookendsLynn: I love my job! Seriously—sometimes I am just awed by the amazing books being created for young readers these days. Take nonfiction for example: gorgeous, fascinating, perfectly attuned to children’s developmental levels, packed with information and just plain fun. Jonathan London’s terrific Hippos Are Huge! (2015) is a perfect example of just how outrageously awesome books for kids can be.

Looking for a book with flat-out
jaw-dropping illustrations that kids will love?

If you are looking for a book to use with your youngest researchers, this is it. Looking for a book sure to captivate young readers? This is it. Looking for a dynamite book to read at a story time? This is it. Looking for a way to teach hipposindexes to the K-2 set? This is it. Looking for a book with flat-out jaw-dropping illustrations that kids will love? This is it.

Beginning with the fabulous cover art showing a hippopotamus with its mouth WIDE open, this book is filled with wonderfully dynamic illustrations showing hippos in all their many activities. The illustrations range from vast two-page spreads to smaller drawings scattered across the pages, but all convey the sense of size of the animals. Accompanying the illustrations are two types of text: simple vocabulary and funny sound effects in a large, dark font, and a smaller and lighter text designed to provide additional information and be read to the youngest readers. London has chosen just the sorts of activities and information that will most interest young readers, like hippos tail-swatting dung at each other. A simple, easy-to-use index is included that is wonderfully designed for primary students.

I recently shared this book with our focus group member who starts kindergarten in the fall, and nearly broke his heart when I had to keep it to write about instead of sending it home with him. A major thumbs up from Henry for a book that’s ideal for school and public library collections—and individual bookshelves, too.

Hot HippoCindy: When Lynn showed me Hippos are Huge! I immediately thought of my favorite hippo book, Hot Hippo (1986), written by Mewenye Hadithi and illustrated by Adrienne Kennaway. I can’t tell you how delighted I am to have learned that it is still in print! My copy is battered and I am going to order a replacement.

Hippo was hot. Hippo “walked and he ran and he strolled and he hopped and he lumbered along” to the mountain to visit the great god Ngai to seek permission to live in the water where he could be cool instead of on the land with the other animals. After some negotiation, they strike a deal that allows Hippo to live in the water during the day and to open his mouth wide so Ngai can see he isn’t eating the fishes, and to stay on the riverbank during the night when Ngai cannot see him.

This pourquoi story affords lots of story time participation, and small children love opening their mouths wide so Ngai can see that they have no fishes inside! The watercolor illustrations are delightful. When the summer months heat up, take a dip into Hot Hippo.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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