That’s Not a Hippopotamus (Juliette MacIver, illus by Sarah Davis, Gecko Press)
This book begins with a class visit to a zoo. The children are told by the guide that they have every kind of animal, but the children quickly realise that there’s no hippopotamus. The guide rushes off to find the hippo, which seems to have disappeared. What follows is a chaotic and very entertaining hunt for the hippopotamus, with every child coming up with an animal, to be greeted with the shouted response ‘That’s not a hippopotamus!’ and the teacher looking increasingly frazzled. The hunt continues until the real hippo is finally found. The easy-to-read rhyming text carries the story with humour, providing rollicking fun for readers aged six years and up, but it’s Sarah Davis’ delightful, beautifully drawn illustrations of this multicultural class of energetic children that are so successful. A subplot featuring a small, quiet boy gaining in confidence is threaded throughout the book, and young readers will be delighted to find Davis has hidden the hippopotamus in the background of her pictures, giving them another way to engage with the story leading up to the final, triumphant sighting. It is also worth mentioning the format and production of the book, as New Zealand publisher Gecko Press has made it available as both a hardcover and a sturdy, well-produced paperback with cover flaps.
Margaret Hamilton is a former children’s book publisher. She is now proprietor of Pinerolo, the Children’s Book Cottage in Blackheath, NSW