But Not the Hippopotamus

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
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Cute rhyming book shows how to be a friend.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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

Violence & Scariness

What 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.

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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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals and picture books

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