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A Board Book of Epic Proportion
on May 23, 2005
The most entertaining "counting book," I've seen, Sandra Boynton pulls out all the stops (and all the hippos) in this hilariously inventive tale of a hippo happening. It all beings with one lonely hippo, who "calls two hippos on the phone. Three hippos at the door [then, next page] bring along another 4. Before long, "seven hippos arrive in a sack. Eight hippos sneak in the back. Nine hippos come to work. ALL THE HIPPOS GO BERSERK!" Berserk here, means 45 hippos (9 + * + & ... + 1) all in the initial hippo's house, tooting horns, tearing down a hippo portrait (drawn like Whistler's mother, if Whistler were a hippo), eating cake, and being served by those nine working hippos. When morning comes, the hippos leave, in as many different ways as they arrived: By "Greyhip" bus, wagon train (!), helicopter, and wheelbarrow.
We've come to expect Boynton's wonderfully whimsical, rounded style, but she adds several humorous details (e.g. a hippo dancing on the roof), and very cleverly associates the numbers with the hippos. Most counting books are very static, a number, say 5, and five of some item on that page. I suppose a more "advanced" presentation is that the numbers are related in some thematic way. However, Boynton doesn't limit herself to the one page per number formula; she writes a continuous story, in which new guests-the ones associated with that page's number--mingle with previous arrivals. She accomplishes this by distinguishing the new, number-relevant guests through their costumes or by color differences. This format may require more cognitively than simpler books, but Boynton's "Hippos GO Berserk" is so entertaining that it stands alone as pure entertainment; its value "counts" much more than the traditional style.