Written and Illustrated by Sandra Boynton
Aladdin Paperbacks, 1977
One hippo, all alone, calls two hippos on the phone.
The plot in a nutshell: Lots of hippos enjoy a party.
The two hippos come over to keep the first one company. Then three more hippos arrive, bringing four with them. The next five hippos come a little overdressed and then another six show up with a funny blue monster. While seven more hippos come in through the front door, eight more sneak in the back door. Nine hippos come to help out with the party and then the party is in full swing and lasts all night. In the morning, all the various groups leave to go home and the original hippo misses his 44 guests.
We had this book, from bookshelf favorite Sandra Boynton, when our kids were young and it was a big hit. Perhaps that may have been because whenever we reached the part of the book where all the hippos have arrived at the party and they all ‘go berserk,’ we would do likewise. (I sometimes forgot that the purpose of reading bedtime books was to settle the kids down.) But mostly we loved it because it was just a super fun book with a great rhyme scheme that was delightfully satisfying to read aloud.
As the hippos leave, Ms. Boynton twists the rhyme a little by actually rhyming the penultimate words on each page, forcing the reader to vary their meter a little. Some reviewers found that frustrating (or tried to point it out as a mistake) but I loved it. To me, it always felt like a subtle little nudge to play around with structure and not always do what was expected. This is so much more than just a counting book.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is the more, the merrier.