cover image The Happiest Hippo in the World

The Happiest Hippo in the World

Danielle Steel, , illus. by Margaret Spengler. . HarperCollins, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-157899-1

“Different can be wonderful and beautiful,” gushes an author's note on the back of this cumbersome story starring an oversize, bright-green hippopotamus who is born into a family of gray hippos that travel with a circus. When the circus owner pronounces Greenie “too big, too green, and just too different” for the circus, the hippo heads for New York City in the hopes of finding other green hippos and fitting in. Though he's sad when children at a Central Park playground also dismiss him as different and call him a monster, Greenie is finally befriended by an accepting boy named Charlie who “had never seen anyone as beautiful,” announcing, “Of course you're not a monster.... That's the silliest thing I've ever heard. You just look different, that's all.” There's nothing subtle about Steel's (the Max and Martha series) belabored narrative or Spengler's (Animal Strike at the Zoo. It's True! ) brash illustrations, dominated by electric primary colors. The heavy-handed message is impossible to miss. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)