Hello Hello

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Hello Hello Book Poster Image
Intro to wildlife at risk celebrates animals of all stripes.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Traits of animals: colors, shapes, sounds, patterns, habits. Names of 92 animals and their endangered status. Animals are threatened because of habitat loss, poaching, climate change. Levels of threat: Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered. Conservationists work to protect animals. Name of organization International Union for Conservation of Nature. Concept of ecosystem.

Positive Messages

Diversity in the animal kingdom makes "the world a more vibrant and fascinating place." We're all interconnected. "It starts with saying hello." "Many people don't know a lot of these animals exist. You can help change that!" Suggestion to research animals and write letters so the animals "will share this planet with us for many years to come."

Positive Role Models & Representations

The animals are all saying hello and curious about each other. The two kids at the end of the book are also open to learning about the animals. Author identifies himself as "an ardent conservationist" and "proud collaborator with many organizations working to ensure the future of wild places and threatened species."

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hello Hello is by author-illustrator Brendan Wenzel, who won a Caldecott Honor for his best-selling book They All Saw a Cat. His books are smart and thoughtful, while also being completely child-friendly. This one uses a simple rhyming, rhythmic text to introduce the concept of endangered species by celebrating a wide variety of animals, and the main text is perfectly suited for the very young. But an author's note at the back of the book offers a bit more substance, introducing the concept that species may be "in trouble -- considered to be Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered." And a four-page key provides the names of each of the 92 animals pictured, and lists their endangered status.

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What's the story?

HELLO HELLO begins with two cats saying hello. Turn the page, and the black cat greets a lineup of other black-and-white animals. Turn the page again, and a black-and-white fish swims onto a spread of brightly colored animals. The colorful newt at the end of that page moves on to say hello to animals with stripes and spots. And so it goes through the pages, as we encounter animals big and small, patterned, quiet and loud, and so on. At the end, two children smile at a ring-tailed lemur and give a thumbs up to a golden lion tamarin, and the text reads, "A world to see. A world to know. Where to begin? Hello Hello."

Is it any good?

It's heartbreaking that kids today are born into a world where the animals they learn about are endangered, but this book's an enchanting introduction to the vibrant diversity of the animal kingdom. In the main pages of Hello Hello, author-illustrator Brendan Wenzel celebrates animals of all stripes -- ones from land, sea, and air -- with descriptive, rhythmic rhymes that call attention to animal characteristics. His art is bright and cheery and includes cut paper to indicate scales, stripes, quills, and feathers, giving the animals depth and texture.

Wenzel saves the more serious lessons for the back pages, though even there he's mindful of his young audience. The author's note states his message simply without talking down. And the names of the animals go far beyond the usual "lion, tiger, bear," to teach the real names of the species, for instance "veiled chameleon" and "three-stripe damselfish," communicating a deep respect for these wondrous but vulnerable creatures with whom we share the planet.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about all the animals in Hello Hello. What physical characteristics does the book call attention to? Can you think of other animals with those traits?

  • Did you know that some animals are in danger of dying out? What do those categories mean: Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered? What can people do to help animals survive?

  • Why do you think the author-illustrator always shows an animal moving from the last page to the next? Did you notice that when turning pages? Why do you think the animals say hello to each other?

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