THE HIPPOS AT THE SEASHORE
Volume 21 Number 4
The Hippos at the Seashore is the second in the series of Hippo adventures, following The Hippos' Wedding. In this story the Hippo family, mother, father, grandmother, sister and brother, go to the seashore for a holiday. Their rented cottage seems a bit small, but they aren't too put out because they plan to spend their holiday at the beach, where Rollo builds a sturdy castle, Rosie collects shells, father exercises, and mother paints, while granny peers out to sea.
A nasty storm blows up forcing the Hippos to retreat to their cramped cabin. The storm goes on for days and the Hippos become more and more cantankerous until they follow Granny's suggestion, "Do something useful." They fix the leaky cabin until it becomes cosy and they cheer up. The storm finally passes and they can then return to their beach activities.
I liked the bright colours of the illustrations and the warm tones for the sunny days as opposed to the dark shades used for the stormy days and nights. The burly hippos themselves seem very ill at ease in their narrow cottage.
I was sorry to see, however, that the illustrations as well as the narrative seem to take place more from an adult's (perhaps the grandmother's) point of view. From the first illustration to pretty well the last, the adults appear in the foreground while the children are in the background. The whole story of the beach visit has more adult than child appeal, since it lacks action or events children would be interested in. Furthermore, I question the use of hippos in this story. What characteristics of the hippopotamus make it important to use hippos as the characters in this story? Also, surprising in a book of the 1990s, the grandmother, mother and daughter are engaged in much more passive activities (knitting, painting, and collecting shells) than are the males in the family (exercising and building sturdy castles).
In the end, Lindsay Grater has created a book that will have limited appeal in school libraries for "beach" studies.
Norma Charles is a teacher/librarian at Henderson Annex Elementary School in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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