A photogenic hippo models emotions and behaviors in an undeniably winning board book.
Born six weeks prematurely, Cincinnati Zoo resident Fiona, the baby hippo, required much extra nursing and attention from her human caregivers. Fiona’s growth and progress were meticulously documented, blogged, and reblogged, making her an internet sensation in the process. As fate would have it, there are few things cuter than an underweight baby hippo, making Fiona an ideal candidate for a children’s board book. Fiona’s abundance of personality makes her well-suited to model a range of basic emotions; anthropomorphizing her various grins, yawns, peeks, and bellows comes naturally and easily. The success or failure of this type of book is a direct function of how unambiguously the photographs suggest the feelings indicated by the text. To that end, author and pediatrician Hutton has chosen an exemplary selection of pictures to accompany his simple rhymes: “Hippo happy. / Sometimes sad. // Often silly. / Uh-oh, mad.” Each page offers one photo and one clear concept that should resonate with the board-book audience, providing children with vocabulary for their own emotions and expressions. The steady meter and smooth rhyme scheme are easily retained; with repeated readings children will no doubt anticipate and be able to name familiar states such as “scared,” “proud,” “sleepy,” “shy,” and “hungry,” to name a few.
Tots will find Fiona a welcome nursery presence. (Board book. 6 mos.-3)