But Not the Hippopotamus



Cute rhyming book shows how to be a friend.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Sandra Boynton's rhyming book But Not the Hippopotamus teaches toddlers simple rhymes, and encourages them to identify different animals and activities.

Positive messages

But Not the Hippopotamus shows that it's nice to include everyone when you play.

Positive role models

By inviting the hippopotamus to join in the fun, the animals set an inclusive, kind example for young children.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Sandra Boynton's But Not the Hippopotamus teaches very young children about rhyming words, animals, and being a friend. Groups of animals (a hog and a frog, a cat and two rats, a moose and a goose, etc.) are shown having fun together, while a lonely hippo looks on. When "the lot of us" (a rhyme for hippopotamus!) ask the hippo to join, the hippo feels happy and included -- one of the most important social lessons for little ones. As she usually does, Boynton adds a little nonsense at the end, too, in the form of a lonely armadillo. This cheerful, entertaining book can be used to teach children how rhymes work, to help them identify different animals, and to show them how good friends feel when they're included.

What's the story?

At the beginning of Sandra Boynton's toddler book BUT NOT THE HIPPOPOTAMUS, a frog and a hog are happily dancing in a mud puddle (a "bog") while a lonely-looking hippo watches. Other pages similarly show rhyming animals doing activities together -- a cat and rats trying on hats, a moose and goose having juice, a bear and hare returning from the fair, etc. -- but the hippopotamus can only watch the other creatures pairing up and having fun. In the end, all of the animals notice the lonely hippo and "the lot of us" ask the hippopotamus to to join them. He (or she; it's not stated) hesitates, then joyfully agrees ... while a lonely armadillo looks on.

Is it any good?


Sandra Boynton's toddler books almost always make wonderful edutainment; this one, with its cute pictures and inclusive message, is especially nice. Children will love to join in the rhyming read-aloud fun while they receive an important message about asking new friends to play.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about being a friend. How does the hippopotamus feel when he sees the other animals having fun? How does he feel when they invite him to play with them?

  • Who does the moose have juice with? What do the cat and rats try on? What's fun about rhyming words? 

  • What did the bear and the hare get at the fair?

Book details

Author:Sandra Boynton
Illustrator:Sandra Boynton
Topics:Cats, dogs, and mice
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Little Simon
Publication date:November 30, 1982
Number of pages:14
Publisher's recommended age(s):2 - 5
Read aloud:2 - 5
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, App

This review of But Not the Hippopotamus was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Vibrant counting book doubles as a field guide.
  • Moo
    Cute interactive book about fuzzy and furry farm animals.
  • Dog
    Pat the puppies, make them move, love them all.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide