Hardcover, 96 pages
Expected publication: May 10th 2016 by First Second
John Patrick Green’s Hippopotamister is a cute picturebook that follows the adventures of the renamed Hippopotamus and his friend, the Red Panda, when they leave their old and shabby zoo to make their way in the wide world of humans and technology.
Red Panda and Hippopotamister move from job to job as Hippo is always more than good at his job but Red Panda somehow isn’t. After trying their hands at a wide array of jobs including (but not limited to) dentistry, hair dressing, and construction. After being fired from the tenth or so job, Hippo decides to return to the zoo angering Red Panda who strikes off on his own.
Back at the zoo, Hippo realizes that all the jobs he has done have given him skills that he can use to whip the zoo back into shape. He can comb the lion’s mane, fix the seal’s tooth, and repair the broken cages. When the zoo is ready for customers, he realizes that what he didn’t learn was a way to attract customers. And that’s where his estranged friend, Red Panda, comes in.
Hippopotamister is a fun book that does not skirt too close to logic (how do the humans not notice that their dentist/hairdresser/construction worker are a hippo and a red panda? how are these animals even able to do such jobs without spending time learning about them?) but depends on a definite suspension of disbelief for its success. I’m pretty certain children, the intended audience, will be able to suspend their disbelief though the more astute ones will question the probability of animals doing these jobs without being found out.
I did like the progression of the narrative as Hippo finds not just his own strengths but also Red Panda’s. I like that he learns these skills and applies them–the picturebook can be used by parents and teachers to discuss the application of learned skills in an easy accessible manner.
The art is vivid, energetic, and engaging. All in all, this is a fun book and I heartily recommend it to teachers, librarians, and parents. And of course to little readers.