A hippopotamus escapes from a zoo in this fable from Spain.
Hippo Mister H prevails on schoolgirl Rosanna to liberate him from his enclosure, declaring that “Being in this place is what’s against the law, the Law of Nature.” Once she accedes, she quickly fades from the narrative, which follows Mister H as he placidly proceeds through the zoo, determinedly overlooked by passersby who choose not to notice the extraordinary. Those who do notice him do so with blinkered literalness, such as the gardener who helps them through the zoo’s turnstile while lecturing him about overeating. His progress through the surrounding city goes similarly unremarked, until a kind server at Porcupine Pizza forgives his colossal bill (though he has acquired clothing in the illustrations, he has no money). Lozano’s gouache illustrations, both full-page and vignettes, recall the stylings of such mid-20th-century masters as M. Sasek. Most children will find themselves frustrated by the elliptical, inconclusive end, which finds Mister H walking off into the darkness “with the hope that someone would guide him to his home” in Africa. But those attuned to tone may let the wry whimsy carry them, and even if they aren’t entirely sure what Mister H’s quest is, they may find themselves regarding the easy truisms of the adult world with a knowing eye.
Mister H may be inscrutable, but once readers notice him, they will find him hard to forget. (Fantasy. 7-10)