by Sandra Boynton
Little Simon, 1984, 13 pages
Hippo doesn’t seem to be included in much of what her friends are up to. For example, we learn on the very first page of this board book, that “A hog and a frog cavort in the bog… but not the Hippopotamus.” The next page, it is more of the same: “A cat and two rats are trying on hats… but not the Hippopotamus.” Poor Hippo! She is always being left out.
After a few more pages of forlorn Hippo looking wistfully at what others are up to, (and the repeating refrain, “…but not the Hippopotamus”) the rest notice how neglectful they’ve been, and invite Hippo to “come join the lot of us!”
Now as we all know invitations are nice, but sometimes people turn them down, even when they really want to go. So we are in suspense as shy Hippo ponders what to do: “She just doesn’t know – Should she stay? Should she go?” So it is with joy that we turn the page to see her exclaim: “BUT YES THE HIPPOPOTAMUS!”
That is not, however, the end of the book. One line follows: “…but not the armadillo.” This small creature is staring sadly after Hippo as she joins the group. It is a great end to a remarkable little book. Yes, it is full of fun rhymes, and a great rhythm (I love reading this one to my little girl) and has friendly engaging pictures too, but it is this final line which really sets it apart. Here we see that not only should we include others in our groups, but even when we do step outside ourselves, and make that invitation, doing it once, to one person is only a start. There are still others who are being forgotten and could use a friend.
And if your son or daughter is in Hippo's position, a different sort of lesson can be taught, to show them that they have to seize opportunities when they come. Poor Hippo would still have been lonely if she had said no.
I've now spent more than 300 words reviewing a book that is no longer than 150, so it is time to conclude, but I will add the heartiest of recommendations. If you have little kids, or know anyone with little kids, this is a rare treat, and definitely a really good read.