Coming out in May is a charming children’s book by John Patrick Green (Quicken Forbidden, Teen Boat). Hippopotamister sends its title character, a hippopotamus from a run-down zoo, out into the world to try on different hats as he works to find the right job.
Now, although the story is aimed at younger readers, this is something I can certainly relate to, from needing to find a new occupation to a past-its-prime business making its “employees” unhappy to the way that Hippopotamister learns something valuable from everything he tries. He’s pretty good at work, too, with a variety of skills, until his buddy Red Panda messes things up and sends them looking once again.
I like the way that the two friends interact. Hippopotamister needs the inspiration and example of Red Panda to decide to try something new, even though he’s clearly got abilities. I also like how the story is more than just a series of wacky pictures, pulling together into something more substantial. Even Red Panda eventually finds the right job for himself.
The art is evocative, cartoony but recognizable, with a slightly exaggerated spectrum of colors. Kids will like seeing the zoo animals take on jobs ranging from construction worker to hairdresser to chef. The two-page spreads where Hippo and Red Panda’s results are revealed are both funny and lovely. And readers of very popular YA graphic novels may recognize Hippo’s patient when he’s a dentist.
At the end, there are how-to-draw pages for Hippopotamister and Red Panda. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)