Jan Payne, Tony Payne, , illus. by Guy Parker-Rees. . Scholastic/Orchard, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-56418-2
In this tale of a pink-nosed young hippo named Portly from a husband-and-wife team, the hero spurns his "boring old grass" existence, and visits other animals to see if it might be nicer being them. Waving off his parents' warnings about the impossibility of becoming someone else ("We'll see about that!" he says), Portly rigs up a set of horns so he can be a rhinoceros. He also fashions a trunk from a vine, and leaf ears so he can be an elephant ("I want to smell something when I'm
vignettes of Portly trying to manage his new accessories; full-bleed spreads also feature the blue skies and baobabs of the African savannah and the brilliant indigo shadows cast by the equatorial sun. Inevitably, the novelty of being someone else palls, and the hippo's parents are happy to have him home. " 'Excuse me,' said Mom, knowing who it was but not letting on. 'What sort of creature are you?' 'I'm a hippo-gir-ele-bat-onoceros!' Portly said proudly." With relief he jumps into the river; all his special equipment falls symbolically to the bottom. Portly is an appealing hero, the Paynes' patter remains perky and the episodic quality of the story keeps things moving. Ages 4-8.
Reviewed on: 02/09/2004