cover image The Bigness Contest

The Bigness Contest

Florence Parry Heide. Joy Street Books, $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-316-35444-8

Beasley the hippopotamus longs to excel at something-- anything --but is stymied by his size: he fails miserably at athletic contests and can barely squeeze into his outfit for the Best Costume Contest. When sympathetic Aunt Emerald stages a Bigness Contest, Beasley wins a blue ribbon--but he must relinquish it when his lazy cousin Borofil emerges at long last from his customary spot in the river and proves to be the biggest of all. Beasley decides to join Borofil and practice being lazy, and in due course wins the Laziness Contest and a ribbon he can keep. Despite lots of appealing silliness and laconic humor, the story, with its rather plot-heavy and diffuse ending, is not as sharp or satisfying as Heide's best. Chess, who illustrated Heide's Tales for the Perfect Child , adds greatly to the comedy, her art helping to sustain some sparkle to the end. Her oversized, pink-bellied protagonists are both endearing and just a tad gross; her African landscape features brilliant grasses and bits of exotic vegetation; and her supporting characters, from the formidable, lorgnette-wielding Aunt Emerald to a beret-wearing hippo painter, contribute spice of their own. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)