But Not the Hippopotamus – encouragement for shy days

thA shy hippo meets some seriously silly and friendly animals.


Bibliographic Info:  Boynton, Sandra  But Not the Hippopotamus  Little Simon (1982, 1995) 14pp  Formats: Board Book ISBN 0-671-44904-4  $5.99, Hardcover, eBook (iBook and Kindle), App  Interest Level: Baby-3  Reading Level: preK and up  Genre: Classics  Themes:  Animals, Friendship, Rhyming Books, Shyness

StorytimeWow_FinalLogo-1But Not the Hippopotamus was given the StorytimeWOW Marquee Seal on March 4th, 2015.  This classic toddler board book/eBook/app meets the StorytimeWOW Standards and has been selected for three collections on this site: PictureBookWOW, Picture eBookWOW and AppWOW.  The app format is highly recommended as it enhances the hilarity of this classic.  Read the Storytime section below for details on why this story was selected.


Summary:  A shy hippo is drawn out of his shell by Boynton’s seriously silly and friendly animals.

Review: But Nth-4ot the Hippopotamus is an awesome little book A big shy hippo encourages empathy and funny animals entertain.  The book delivers a joyful dose of friendliness that will add more smiles to storytime.  Boynton’s ever-appealing two- dimensional illustrations add comedy to this short but satisfying little tale.  StorytimeWOW highly recommends using the app version for group storytimes (with a monitor or projector).  


Storytime:  But Not the Hippopotamus meets the following StorytimeWOW Standards:

  • Dynamic writing and universal appeal.   Babies, toddlers and preschoolers love animals and will understand the hippo’s shyness.
  • The “WOW” factor is evident (children will enjoy it).
  • But Not the Hippopotamus is fun, short and well-suited for repetition. The story has been popular since the 80s which speaks to its timelessness.
  • The illustrations work for groups. Boynton’s illustrations are simple and unmuddied on the pages of the story.  Children will find them easy to connect with.  While the board book format is too small for big groups, the classic is now available in electronic formats (eBook and App).  Use the app with a large screen monitor or projector if you can.  Not only will this make the illustrations easier to see from a distance, the app has many comedic animations and sound effects that will add to any read aloud experience.
  • The book possesses the happy takeaway of social encouragement for shy children with a big dose of silliness and smiles.
  • Overcoming shyness and animals are child-centered themes.
  • The story keeps the listener’s attention and is free of squirmy moments.
  • The interest level of this story is babies (9 months old) through preK.
  • Built-in participation involves young children on every page by inviting them to repeat “but not the hippopotamus.”

th-2Storytime Tips:  Take a little time to find and learn the bells and whistles of this awesome little app.  Your timing and inflection are important to establishing a storytelling rhythm and serving up the comedy.  There are layers of fun you can add.  The result will make your telling more effective and seamless.

Bibliotherapuetic Usefulness:  Use this book to encourage social development with children.  Celebrate along with the story and the other animal characters when the hippo embraces friendship and joins the other animals.  Ask kids about how they think the hippo and the other animals feels on each page.


Early Childhood Education and Development:  The following lists this little book’s stand-out benefits across various early childhood education (ECE) and child development checklists.

1. But Not the Hippopotamus is a board book/eBook/app that cultivates the following Pre-Reading Skills (see full list of pre-reading skills here):

  • Teaches toddlers names of animals (vocabulary)
  • Noticing print and following words on a page or screen (print awareness).
  • Hearing playing with smaller sounds in words like the “og” or “ats” in “hog” and “rats” (phonological awareness).
  • Cultivates interest and enjoyment in books (print motivation).
  • Being able to describe things and tell stories (narrative skills).

2. This board book/eBook/app provides opportunities to utilize the Early Literacy-building Parent Practices (see full list of parent practices here):

  • Talking with kids, first by telling them this story, and next by stretching the book into a conversation about the story and the animals will help toddlers learn to express themselves using language.
  • Reading together is “the single most effective way to help children become proficient readers” (source:  Every Child Ready to Read).
  • Writing!  Help kids write their name in their own books.  For picture books in app or enhanced eBook formats, look to see if the option is there for children to type their name into a “This Book Belongs To ____” section on the first page.  All Boynton board book apps include this option.
  • Playing is a primary way in which children learn language (and this book is very playful).

3. This book/eBook/app builds children’s Kindergarten Readiness (see full checklist here).  Children well-prepared for kindergarten are able to:

  • Listen to stories without interrupting
  • Recognize rhyming sounds
  • Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks
  • Begin to control oneself
  • Look at pictures and then tell stories
  • Identify rhyming words
  • Identify the beginning sound of some words
  • Recognize some common sight words

4. This book/eBook/app follows Common Core Guidelines (see full list here):

  • Integrate more new media materials and technology in group programs and classroom settings.  Cultivate media literacy behaviors through modeling.
  • Increase focus on children’s comprehension through dialogic reading.  Ask questions, before, during and after telling stories.
  • Create a more participatory culture in group programs and classroom settings.  Use materials that invite participation and keep learners engaged.

5. This book/eBook/app supports young children’s “emerging mental abilities” by providing opportunities for “key experiences” that strengthen and broaden these abilities (see full list here):

  • Using Language (conversing about personally meaningful experiences with adults and peers, describing events, objects and relations verbally, naming and expressing feelings in words, listening to others describe objects and events, listening to stories being read)
  • Representing (relating pictures to real places and things)
  • Classification (describing what characteristics something does not possess or what class it belongs to, distinguishing between some and all)
  • Seriation (comparing: which one is bigger/smaller, shorter/taller, etc…)
  • Temporal Relations (starting and stopping an action on signal, describing the order of events – beginning/middle/end)
  • Spatial Relations (describing relative distances among things and locations – close/near, far apart/next to/together)

Significance:  Published in 1982 (more than three decades ago), But Not the Hippopotamus is a bestselling board book that continues to entertain.  Great as a lap time read aloud, it’s now available as an interactive app (and in eBook formats) for use in new media group storytimes.

th-5Read-alikes:  Boynton’s Moo, Baa, La La La, Blue Hat, Green Hat and The Going to Bed Book are similarly funny board books for toddlers that are also available as apps.  Here’s a link to purchase Boynton’s Greatest Hits – Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Links:  Boynton’s website  Hippo teaching resources  Amazon  

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Awards/Achievements: Named one of the Top 100 Picture Books by School Library Journal (#72).

About the author: “Sandra Boynton is a popular American cartoonist, writer, children’s author, and songwriter. Since 1974, Boynton has written and illustrated over forty children’s books and seven general audience books, including four New York Times Bestsellers. More than 35 million of her books have been sold—”mostly to friends and family,” she says. She has also written and produced five albums of award-winning children’s music. Three of her albums have been certified Gold, and Philadelphia Chickens, nominated for a Grammy, is nearing Platinum. In 2008, she was awarded the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Cartoonists Society.”  -Amazon.com’s Sandra Boynton page

Other Reviews:  Common Sense Media  Goodreads

I chose to review this material because it encourages children to overcome shyness and thereby cultivates social development.

3Make Reading More Fun


Written by Tom Schween, founder of storytimeWOW!