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It’s Hippos Go Berserk! For World Read Aloud Day 2018

This little hippo was all alone until …


Cover image for Hippos Go Berserk!







Written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton


I know, I know, there are SO many Sandra Boynton books that beg to be read aloud including Moo, Baa, La La La!The Going to Bed Book, Barnyard Dance! and Blue Hat, Green Hatin fact I still can recite many of them after first reading them over 20 years ago. But Hippos Go Berserk!  has a special place in my heart because both my children adored it and would not let me donate it when they grew too old for picture books. My copy is from 1996 although the book was first published in 1977.

When I think about what makes a story great to read aloud, I think about readability. Is the story easy for a parent, teacher, caregiver or child to read or do words slow them down? Can people take turns reading or pretending to be the characters? Are the pictures depicting some readily understood interpretation of the text? Does the book make you feel good when reading it? Is there fun repetition or engaging language? Can kids anticipate what comes next? Anyone looking at me reading Hippos Go Berserk!, even as an adult, will see a huge grin appear on my face after turning from page one to page two.

“One hippo, all alone, (page one)
calls two hippos (page two)
on the phone.” (page three)

So simple you may think, but the artwork Boynton’s created speaks volumes. First there’s a sad, lonely hippo on page one who decides to make a phone call to two friends. The mood of the story changes with just a flip of the page! Things are looking up.
The bonus is that it’s also a counting story which will hook kids who are eager to see where Boynton is taking the tale. Her hippos’ eyes and posture convey such a range of emotion that youngsters will want to linger on every page to make their assessment of everyone the hippo has invited and NOT invited over. The illustration of five hippos that arrive overdressed cracks me up every time I see it. Will they be invited in to join the other guests? Are they too posh for the crowd or will they fit right in? Help kids count how many hippos have come over, and they’ll be amazed how quickly the initial two friends who were called have now multiplied. Soon word is getting out that a cool party is underway and a big reason why eight hippos sneak in the back. Seeing them tiptoe softly, with one trying not to giggle too loudly, is part of Boynton’s brilliance. Until at last …


The letters are deliberately in all caps, and the bold type invites readers to use an outside voice. The scene is wild. The joint is jumping and hippos everywhere are having a blast, except maybe the ones hired to serve the hors d’oeuvres. With so much zaniness going on, Hippos Go Berserk! will be read over and over again, each time with some new discovery being made in the party spread. Soon kids will know the story by heart, helped by the rollicking rhyme and whimsical artwork. The all-night party must come to an end and before you know it even “The last two hippos go their way.” Somehow though, readers aren’t disappointed because there’s hope that the lone hippo, sitting by the phone just like when the book began, will inevitably pick up the receiver and make another call.

I don’t know if, all those years ago when I first read Hippos Go Berserk!  to my children, I knew that Boynton wrote this delightful story when she was a student at the Yale School of Drama, but now I completely understand why her hippos are so darn dramatic not to mention adorable!


  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel




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Scared Silly

 Reviewer Rita Zobayan gets hoppy and in a Halloween mood.

Have you ever had the sneaking suspicion that you are being stalked? Perhaps someone or something is at the root of your suspicions? Jasper Rabbit believes that villainous vegetables, namely creepy carrots, are on his tail. What is a rabbit to do when the vegetable he loves the most won’t leave him alone?

Written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown, Creepy Carrots ($16.99, Simon & Schuster, ages 3 and up) is an amusing read with a shadowy twist. We meet Jasper, consumer of carrots, who has a sneaking suspicion that there is more than meets the eye regarding the carrots of Crackenhopper Field. Could it be that the carrots are alive and following him?! Is Jasper imagining the bevy of beta-carotene watching his every move?!

Jasper was about to help himself to a victory snack…when he heard it. The soft…sinister…tunktunktunk of carrots creeping. He turned…but there was nothing there. Just my imagination, he thought. But he hopped a little faster. That night, as he was brushing his teeth…there they were! Jasper whipped around…but nothing. He laughed at himself, picked his toothbrush off the floor, and went to bed…quickly.

Jasper’s growing unease of carrots is portrayed in a kid-friendly manner. My three year old daughter was held captive by this storyline and by the pictures of common items that children can so easily mistake for scary bad guys (or scary carrots). This clever read is enhanced by the cartoon-like illustrations. Set to a simple color palette of black, white, gray and orange, the illustrations seem like a film noir in charcoal. The expressions on the carrots are fun to pick out.


Creepy Carrots makes for an entertaining Halloween or meal-time read. Just be sure to watch your back the next time you’re in the produce section of your grocery store. Click here to see a video interview with the illustrator, Peter Brown.

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Oh, Poop!

Reviewer Debbie Glade got a real kick out of a witty and wonderful book about, well, eliminating so-to-speak.

Once a child sees the title of this book, Poopendous!: The Inside Scoop on Every Type and Use of Poop ($16.99, Blue Apple Books, Ages 4 and up) he or she will let out a big laugh and then won’t be able to wait to read it. Professor “Pip Poopdeck” presents readers with pages of useful (and hilarious) info about poop, be it from a bat, octopus, camel, monkey, aardvark, dog or human baby. The story is written by Artie Bennett, author of The Butt Book,  in clever rhyme and is wonderfully illustrated with vibrant colors and crisp images by Mike Moran.

 Poopendous pg6 explorer and monkeys


Young readers will not only learn that it is natural for every living creature to poop, but also how poop can actually be helpful, be it fertilizer, for use in making structures or marking a trail. I absolutely love books that make kids laugh as they learn, and all the while entertain the parents who are reading with their kids. The illustrations are really cute and make the copy sing. Most little kids are intrigued by the subject of poop, and this book will certainly satisfy their interest, teach them a thing or two and make them howl with laughter. I promise you will love this book!

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Killer Poems

Take a midnight stroll through Amen Creature Corners and glimpse what’s carved on the animals’ headstones.

Ronna Mandel wants to get your youngsters hyped up for Halloween with her  review of Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs ($16.95, Charlesbridge, ages 7-10) by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen with ilustrations by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins. 

I know what you’re thinking. Bizarre, morbid. Maybe. But I love this kind of offbeat picture book that is often ever so subtly humorous and other times outright in your face. Either way, the variety of the verses are clever and catchy and the gray-toned artwork is moody and evocative with the occasional smidgen of scarlet. Look closely, too, or you might miss some very funny touches Timmins has tossed in to keep you on your toes as you walk amongst the tombstones. Whether the creatures have been crushed, fallen ill or been struck while crossing the street (see page 6 Chicken Crosses Over), the myriad methods of demise are as hysterical as the epitaphs!

I have a feeling this kind of original and whacky poetry book might just tickle a few funny bones and get more than a few kids eager to try their hand at a few epitaphs this fall. With a chill in the autumn air, it’s really the right time of year to nurture all those budding Edgar Allan Poes. 

Here’s a brief sample of a few of my faves:

Good-bye to a Rowdy Rooster

Too cocky by far,
he head-butted a car. 

Flickering Moth

Here lies a moth
without a name,
who lived by the fire
and died by the flame. 

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Spaceheadz: New! Fresh Scent, Long Lasting!

Spaceheadz (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $14.99, ages 7-10)

9781416979517Today’s review comes courtesy of Coleman, my 9 year-old son, who loves Abbott and Costello, playing LEGO, reading, Club Penguin, Pokemon, Bakugan, inventing and bike riding.

This new book by Jon Scieszka, made extra-strength by Francesco Sedita and illustrated by Shane Prigmore is about a few kids trying to fit in. Seems regular right? Wrong! Two out of three and a hamster are aliens called SPHDZ. (SPHDZ = Spaceheadz)!!

The SPHDZ characters’ names are Bob, Jennifer, and Major Fluffy. They come from a different planet and they believe EVERYTHING they see on television. And they saw a boy’s commercial and it said,” I can do anything!” It only was a commercial…but…they believed it. The boy in the commercial and in real life who helps the SPHDZ is named Michael K. (It’s weird I know.) And the Antialienagency (AAA for short) is trying to catch the SPHDZ. The book basically gets stranger and stranger the more you continue to read and despite the 38 chapters…it seems to have gone by quickly because I basically could not put the book down. The hysterical illustrations also kept me glued to every page. Plus, since you won’t want the book to end, there are also two very cool websites you can visit (see below)! Oh and some good news – this is only book #1- so if you are hooked like me, there’s more fun to look forward to when the next in the series comes out. Here are the links:
Thank you for reading this!

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Loveable and Lethal: The Lunch Lady

catalog_cover-1catalog_cover_100Serving Justice! And Serving Lunch!

The Lunch Lady series of graphic kids’ books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka from Knopf has “TV series” written all over it (but according to his blog, Krosoczka says it’s in development for a feature film which is so cool) and given that opportunity, my son, Coleman, would be glued to the tube watching it. He’s devoured each book about a half dozen times and his face lit up just recently when I brought home the latest release. He took the book from me and finished it in one sitting and then proceeded to re-read it all over again, grinning and giggling all the while.

catalog_coverIf you have any reluctant readers at home, this is the series for them. They’ll not only get hooked, they’ll get hysterical over the Lunch Lady’s shenanigans because she is no ordinary monitor. She combats forces of evil that threaten to wreak havoc on her school and she is no match for mortal man or Cyborg for that matter!

catalog_cover_100To date there have been three titles published with the fourth (Lunch Lady and The Summer Camp Shakedown) due out in May and I can tell you right now your child will want them all. Coleman has read the first three books which, in order of publication, are Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians, and Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta.

Editor’s Note: If you’re planning on attending the L.A. Festival of Books on April 24, you can see Krosoczka there.

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