A laughless hyena regains his giggle in this debut from Jantzen and Claude.
Henry Hyena, who lives in a zoo, is having a blue day. He just doesn’t find the usual things funny—not the storks’ wobbly knees or an elephant’s burp—and he won’t join in with the other hyenas’ tricks, which include chasing the hares and cutting holes in the llamas’ new socks. “Now this kind of thing / is really quite rare / for hyenas always / laugh without care.” Dr. Long, a giraffe, knows exactly what’s troubling Henry: “It’s not that you’re sick, and you’re far from a fool. / You’ve just learned that laughing at others is cruel.” Suddenly enlightened, Henry goes on to teach the other hyenas about being nice to others, and just like that, they transform into the nicest animals in the zoo, and Henry’s laugh returns. While the verse is mostly reliable with regard to rhythm and rhyme, the words seem chosen just for their rhymes rather than to enhance or advance the story. Claude’s digital illustrations use bright colors and white backgrounds to focus readers’ attention. Children will have no doubt as to how the animals are feeling, especially the butts of the hyenas’ jokes and tricks.
Important though the lesson is, this is too didactic and unrealistic to help children facing similar situations. (Picture book. 4-7)