Hugo the Hippo takes pride in being “unique,” which causes tension when his friend Bella (a bird) tries to be just like him.
For reasons that remain unclear throughout the story, Bella persists in her adoration and emulation of Hugo, whose dialogue makes him sound both full of himself and also quite uncaring about her feelings. Happily, his rebuffs don’t seem to affect her, and she doggedly keeps up with his various moves in a complicated water ballet. “Bella, will you stop being a copycat!” he demands. “I am not a copycat,” she responds, expanding rather flatly, “I am a bird.” Then, instead of allowing the two to resolve their conflict alone, Bonwill introduces another hippo-and-bird pair, who show up poolside and say, “You two are amazing synchronized swimmers!” This compliment eases Hugo’s mind, and they celebrate with ice cream. This time Bella takes the lead, with Hugo ordering “exactly the same” flavor she does, though she changes her mind so that they enjoy different scoops. Throughout, cartoonish digital art fails to live up to the promise of endearing line art on the endpapers, and it never adds much to this rather pedestrian tale.
A picture book that tries and fails to offer a “unique” spin on the tried-and-true odd-couple–friendship formula. (Picture book. 4-7)