When the hippo goes missing, the whole young class visiting Don’s Safari takes up the search.
Don, a white man with a pith helmet and a neat handlebar moustache, welcomes the diverse throng of children with an expansive gesture. One little white boy boldly declares that there’s no hippopotamus; indeed, near the arrowed sign stating “See the amazing hippopotamus” there’s just a set of big footprints. Don is frantic, and the determined children turn into a hunting party. They’ve got more energy than animal sense, mistaking the giraffe, the elephant, and even the snake for a hippopotamus. Davis’ pictures capture these interactions hilariously. A little black girl with fabulously poofy hair dangles from the neck of the giraffe like a daredevil, and a brown-skinned girl gets all wrapped up by the snake (who later goes for the teacher, who is white). The entire class has just about given up when an enormous figure wearing an ill-fitting Hawaiian shirt, sunglasses, and a tiny ugly hat creeps up behind them. It’s little, brown-skinned Liam who tugs on the teacher’s skirt to point out the big gray beast lurking behind. MacIver’s bouncy, rhyming text betrays its antipodean origins with dropped H’s aplenty: “I got ’im, Miss! I got ’im, Miss!” Davis’ colorful illustrations match the text’s energy and zaniness, doing a better job than many at capturing racial differences among the children.
Buoyant fun for the very young. (Picture book. 3-5)