Author: Tara Star
Publisher: Princess Star Tara Publications
The only reason why I picked this book was because the main character was a hippo. A hippo was among the few animals that my kids, La Niña and El Niño, learned to identify when they first started learning the names of animals. For the same reason, Gloria in the Madagascar films series was also one of their favourite characters.
So when I saw that this book was about a hippo, I knew they were bound to like it.
Harry Hippo is a hippo with huge self-esteem issues. He thinks he is too ugly and admires other animals for their physical attributes. A toucan offers to help him become as pretty as the other animals, and directs him to a magical watering hole which offers a swimmer one wish. Harry Hippo wishes to be pretty and his wish is granted.
But it isn't always nice to have one's wishes come true, and Harry Hippo discovers that soon enough. How he comes to realise the importance of accepting and loving oneself is the crux of this story.
The book is peppered with photographs and cute illustrations of animals. The illustrations are a mix of simple line drawings and artistic renditions of what a lush, tropical forest in the Serengeti, in Tanzania, thickly populated with animals, might look like.
The font and the point size alter on different pages of the book. I thought that some standardisation would have helped, not only in the use of the font and the point size but also in the pictures. Either photos, or simple drawings or artistic illustrations would have served much better, rather than a mix of all three.
Also, there is a factual error that I discovered when I looked up the meaning of toucan. Apparently it is a brightly coloured tropical American bird. This book transplants it into Africa.
Of course, this kind of nit-picking is what we adults do. My kids loved the story, from start to finish, and gushed over each of the images, imagining themselves in the centre of some of the most beautiful illustrations.
La Niña particularly took the lesson to heart. So well did she make it her own that when, some days later, she wanted to click a picture with me, I, notorious hater of my own photographs, refused, saying that I wasn't photogenic enough, and that my hair always looked bad etc.
That's when she looked me straight in the eye and asked, "Mamma, haven't you learned anything from Harry Hippo?"
Some lessons we all stand in need of.
Thank you, Harry Hippo. I hope La Niña and El Niño never forget what you taught them.