The best hippo books

8 authors have picked their favorite books about hippos and why they recommend each book.

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A Mother for Choco

By Keiko Kasza,

Book cover of A Mother for Choco

A Mother for Choco is a classic in the world of adoption books. Told through the lens of a bird looking for his mama, children learn that not all family members look alike! So many foster and adoptive children (and even the children of multi-ethnic birth families!) struggle to identify their place in a family that looks different from them. This story helps to shape the idea that family members can have different hair color, skin color, height, and other varying features from the parents or siblings of the home—and still be family. This is so powerful and important for kids developing their sense of identity and belonging, regardless of their origin.


Who am I?

As a birth, foster, adoptive, and pseudo mom to many children, I know firsthand how hard it is to find quality literature that reflects their experience and gives them skills for their own life journey. As a therapist, certified in trauma and resilience, having spent many years in social services, I also see the lack of resources available to caregivers, teachers, and counselors. It's my passion to help remove shame, build resilience, and reclaim hope in the lives of each member of these families. I’ve done this through a TEDx talk on the power of story on the brain, authored multiple books, speak regularly, offer trainings, and private parent coaching.


I wrote...

Speranza's Sweater: A Child's Journey Through Foster Care and Adoption

By Marcy Pusey,

Book cover of Speranza's Sweater: A Child's Journey Through Foster Care and Adoption

What is my book about?

Kids deserve a safe place to live and grow and learn. For some kids, this means living with foster or adoptive parents. Speranza wears her sweater everywhere, hanging onto the last memories of her birth home until it’s threadbare. Like her unraveled sweater, Speranza must weave together a new story, bringing threads from her past and strands from her present, into a future of love, family, and the true meaning of home.

This heart-warming story provides hope and support for the many mixed emotions a child will experience during their foster and adoption journey, through the unraveling and re-weaving of a favorite sweater. Speranza’s Sweater includes a dictionary of words to empower children and their carers by understanding the language used around them.

George and Martha

By James Marshall,

Book cover of George and Martha

George and Martha, two very large hippos, are so unique they are a delight to read about. Martha loves making split pea soup, pots and pots of split pea soup. She loves looking at herself in the mirror and even wakes up during the night to look at herself. George likes to peek in windows. You can imagine these traits aren’t the most friend-winning qualities around. But George and Martha talk things out. They set each other straight. And best of all, they are always there for each other. I feel all warm and glowy every time I read about them, and I bet your young readers will too.


Who am I?

I hold a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. In addition to the usual two-year program, I studied an extra semester, where I read all the best children’s books about friendship. I wanted to learn how the great authors such as A. A. Milne, James Marshall, and Arnold Lobel wrote stories full of so much heart and humor. My love of friendship stories burgeoned from there. And now, it’s with great delight that I offer you my Best Children’s Books About Friendship—and, of course, my very own friendship story, Big Bear and Little Fish.  


I wrote...

Big Bear and Little Fish

By Sandra Nickel, Il Sung Na (illustrator),

Book cover of Big Bear and Little Fish

What is my book about?

Bear Loves Being Big. At the carnival, she wants to win a teddy bear as big as she is. Instead, she wins a fish. A very little fish. Bear doesn’t quite know what to do. She worries and makes lots of assumptions. But with the help of Fish, Bear learns that although she and Fish are different, they are also a little the same.

Gentle, accessible prose by Sandra Nickel is paired with richly textured illustrations by Il Sung Na in this sweet story about accepting others for who they are.

The Little Hippos' Adventure

By Lena Landstrom, Joan Sandin,

Book cover of The Little Hippos' Adventure

I can still recall snuggling up to my mom as she read me this for the first time, and now it’s a joy I’ve gotten to relive with my daughter! This one—another Swedish translation—is a tale of three little hippos who have a passion for diving! That’s right, off a diving board! Their naughty adventures as they seek out Tall Cliff, the dangers they face, and Mrs. Hippopotamus’ carpentry, will grab children’s attention. The storytelling and humor are spot-on, and the illustrations couple with it beautifully. A very entertaining read. 


Who am I?

I came into the world telling stories. From the age of four you could often find me surrounded by a little cluster of friends, amusing them with a story I was spinning on the spot. When I was nine, I began telling my sisters about a Martian who was living on Earth and who loved his comfy chairs. This Martian eventually became Alou, and it has been such a joy to share his world through my picture book Alou: The Martian Agent and its sequels. One thing I’m passionate about is sparking the potent imagination bottled up inside all our little ones and I hope my books can encourage that. 


I wrote...

Alou: The Martian Agent

By Charline Davis,

Book cover of Alou: The Martian Agent

What is my book about?

Alou is a Martian agent sent to earth. He loves learning about his new home and meeting the people who live there. Explore earth with him for the first time as this lovable Martian takes you around the globe! 

This book encourages children’s natural inquisitive curiosity!

This book is available directly from the author on their website.

American Hippopotamus

By Jon Mooallem,

Book cover of American Hippopotamus

This book doesn’t just read like a novel – it reads like a great novel: A battle between two compelling characters set against the absurd backdrop of an effort to establish a hippo population in America’s swampland. Mooallem’s understated wit showed me that sometimes the best way to understand history is by tracking the people we’ve never heard of, and the initiatives that never succeeded.


Who am I?

As a journalist, I’ve often been frustrated at the sense that I am preaching to the choir – those who take the time to read about a serious topic don’t need to, and those who need to, won’t. I’ve learned to spread awareness by packaging serious information inside a “Trojan Horse," one so fun to read that it reaches people who can actually benefit from the educational bits. These brilliant books, and many others, show that a spoonful of sugar can help us easily swallow information about social justice, endangered species, the U.S. military, and American history. I happily make these books Christmas gifts, knowing they are joys, not obligations.


I wrote...

A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town

By Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling,

Book cover of A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town

What is my book about?

A tiny American town's plans for radical self-government overlooked one hairy detail: no one told the bears.

Once upon a time, a group of libertarians got together and hatched the Free Town Project, a plan to take over an American town and completely eliminate its government. In 2004, they set their sights on Grafton, NH, a barely populated settlement with one paved road. A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear is the sometimes funny, sometimes terrifying tale of what happens when a government disappears into the woods. Complete with gunplay, adventure, and backstabbing politicians, this is the ultimate story of a quintessential American experiment -- to live free or die, perhaps from a bear.

The Adventures of Bentley Hippo

By Argyro Graphy, M.H. Likhon (illustrator),

Book cover of The Adventures of Bentley Hippo: Inspiring Children to Never Give Up

Beautiful story. I loved the ‘real’ letters from children around the world to little Julia. Children with any kind of ‘different ability’ need these kinds of stories to inspire and encourage them. A positive self-image goes a long way toward loving oneself. Children who are self-conscious because of how they look or because of a visible physical disability/challenge need to be reassured that there are things they can do and challenges they can overcome.  


Who am I?

I was born in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, but inherited ‘travelling DNA’ from my sailor father which has led to a life of work and travel around the globe. In addition to being an audiologist and teacher, I am also the author (and sometimes illustrator) of 15 children’s picture books. Many of my books have been inspired by the special children I have had the privilege to work with as both an audiologist and teacher. My books are on a variety of topics including childhood hearing loss, dysgraphia and writing challenges, bullying and forgiveness, learning English as an additional language, and positive self-image. Some of my books are written to evoke giggles and belly laughs. 


I wrote...

Hair Peace

By Dawn Doig, Savannah Horton (illustrator),

Book cover of Hair Peace

What is my book about?

Johanita is a young girl of African descent who does not like her hair. She has short, tight, kinky curls but wants hair like other girls at school because she believes it will make her more beautiful. When she goes to the mall with her mother one day, Johanita discovers a salon full of wigs. She proceeds to try on different wigs and wears one to school each day to match with her 'twin.' After a new girl starts school, Johanita discovers that beauty comes in many forms and it isn’t your hair that makes you beautiful. Hair Peace was inspired by the beautiful women and girls of Cameroon, Africa.  It is a book about positive self-image and perceptions of beauty.  

American Hippo

By Sarah Gailey,

Book cover of American Hippo: River of Teeth, Taste of Marrow, and New Stories

A reimagining of how one decision could change the American landscape… why Thomas Jefferson decided against introducing hippopotamuses to the swamps and marshes of the American South, I’ll never know. But Sarah Gailey gives us a glimpse into this alternative history and it is full of water bearers as fearsome and loyal as any war horse. Reading this in one sitting on a plane ride, I was fascinated by how vastly differentand dangerousthe Mississippi bayous could be when full of a certain shady type of gunslinger creeping through the water with Spanish moss hanging overhead. I suspect if I were alive in this alternative timeline, I might’ve ended up seeking my fortune by holding up a steamboat… especially if I had a hippo as my trusty companion.   


Who am I?

My life quest has been to find true magic. Once believing it could only be uncovered in ruins or cathedrals continents away, I ended up discovering it in my own backyard under the Big Sky. When I was young, I read everything science fiction and fantasy to feel like that magic was real and bask in worlds far different from my own. Now, as a professional editor and author based in the West… I still read everything science fiction and fantasy, but now I get paid to do it.


I wrote...

I Have Asked to Be Where No Storms Come

By Gwendolyn N. Nix,

Book cover of I Have Asked to Be Where No Storms Come

What is my book about?

The facts of Domino's afterlife are simple: he's a half-breed witch from a people without a name, living out a cursed Butch Cassidy existence… and no one wants to be stuck in Hell with witch blood. When he discovers demonic bounty hunters are on his tail, he is shocked to learn they were hired by his brother. Wicasah, wielding insurmountable power, has struck an ill-made bargain with an ancient being of lighting and thunder to resurrect Domino from his terrible fate. Yet, the two discover an even darker power resides within a fractured United States, one that will stop at nothing to be released. Desperate to escape their own destinies, the two must decide if they will save the world… or let it burn.

Cosmic

By Frank Cottrell Boyce,

Book cover of Cosmic

I love all of Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s books. They are funny and clever and the stories are full of twists and loveable characters. This book hooks you from the start and takes you on an adventure you would never have expected. It will make you laugh out loud and bite your nails with worry and you won’t want to stop reading till the end! The story follows the life of Liam, an extraordinarily tall boy, who with one small lie, ends up being launched into space in an ice cream van.

Who am I?

My sons were both reluctant readers and that made me want to write books that they wouldn’t be able to resist reading! Reading should be a pleasure and this list is packed with books that are impossible to put down. They are perfect for young, reluctant readers, as they are not trying to be too serious or worthy or overwhelming with too much text. They pull you in and hook you from the start and you can’t help being moved by the characters as they grow and develop, fostering a love of books and fiction. I love comedy in books, but funny books also have to have heart, believable characters, and a great plot that keeps you reading till the very end.


I wrote...

Fergus the Furball

By Emily Snape,

Book cover of Fergus the Furball

What is my book about?

When Daniel is rudely awakened on the morning of his birthday by his Aunt Tink and his brother and sister, with a cake bearing just 9 candles, a dusty old magic set, and a cactus, instead of the pet he’s long wished for, he is understandably more than a little disappointed. Things are made worse by his irritating little brother Fergus, being as irritating as normal, so feeling rather sorry for himself you can hardly blame Daniel for wishing he had a guinea pig instead of a brother. Imagine his surprise when before his very eyes that’s exactly what happens. Fergus turns into a guinea pig!

Now it’s up to Daniel to somehow find the magic to reverse the spell and turn Fergus back to normal. This is a highly amusing tale that young readers will love, an ideal first-chapter book.

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