Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book #11: Hippo! No, Rhino! By Jeff Newman

Image from
This is a book about a rhino that lives at the zoo. Unfortunately, the zookeeper in charge of putting up the signs is a little confused. He puts up a sign that says “Hippo” in front of the rhino. As people walk up and say, “Hippo,” the rhino corrects each of them with a, “No, rhino!” He makes the hipsters run away and scares the wig off a bejeweled woman. He tries with all his might to change the sign, but he just can’t reach it. Finally, a young boy in a vibrant red scarf walks up to the dejected rhino and changes the sign.

There are just over 20 words and most of them rhyme with rhino, “Fix the sign-o!” The fun is knowing that no matter what, the rhino will say, “No, rhino!” to each zoo-goer. Even though there aren’t a lot of words, it’s still a great book to read aloud. The rhino has a great character arc (never thought I’d write that sentence, glad I got that theatre degree). He gets increasingly exasperated, falls to the depths of despair, and finally ends the book contented with his corrected sign.

The illustrations are a wonderful blend of colored pencil, ink, watercolors, markers, and pastels. I especially love that the rhino is brilliant blue and that the people have a rainbow of skin colors from yellow to green, purple to pink. It’s nice to see illustrations that show kids that people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, without pointing out the differences or making it a big deal. As you read the book, look for the little boy with the red scarf. He appears twice before coming to rescue the rhino from constant humiliation.

Image from B is for Books blog
What’s are the differences between hippos and rhinos? I’ll be honest; I wasn’t very clear on the differences and I learned a lot just writing this post. Print off some large color pictures of each animal and prop them up for the kids to see. Talk about the differences in appearance (Rhinos have horns, hippos have gigantic mouths), but then segue into less obvious differences. Hippos are semi-aquatic mammals that live in rivers and lakes; while rhinos live in open woodlands (Did you know hippos have webbed toes that help them swim? I certainly didn't). Point out the similarities as well, such as both animals are vegetarians.

Kids often see animals in the zoo but aren’t aware that animals live in specific habitats in the wild. Find pictures that show the animals in their native habitat and discuss the differences in terrain, vegetation, etc. Can the kids tell you what continent both these animals live on? Print out a map of Africa or pull out a globe so you can point it out.

Check out National Geographic Kids for great pictures and information about rhinos and hippos. They also have printable animal collector’s cards. 


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