Saturday, June 2, 2012

Review of Hippo Says "Excuse Me"

Author Michael Dahl is a prolific author for children. In his book Hippo Says, "Excuse Me," he attempts to teach children a lesson in using good manners. Little Hippo and his mother are making their way around town. They are very large animals and take up a lot of room. Hippo remembers to say, "Excuse me," as he bounds past everyone. However, he does not stop to wait for the other animals to make room for him and his mother. Illustrations show the hippos taking up so much space that they are squishing the other animals against the walls of the bus stop shelter and against the windows on the bus. As they walk down the street, animals are being knocked out of their way and flying through the air. When they get to an elevator, Hippo says, "Excuse me," but they still shove their way into a space that is not large enough to accommodate them all. A little chick approaches the elevator and properly pauses after saying, "Excuse me, may I get on the elevator?" All of the other animals shout no, that there is no room. Hippo makes a space for the chick on top of his head, because "There is always room for one more."

I appreciate the repetitive aspect of the book, as Hippo keeps uttering the words, "Excuse me." This is a very important phrase for children to use. But Hippo's use of the phrase is more rude than polite, because he doesn't wait for animals to move out of his way. He just shoves his way into small spaces and knocks people out of his way. Saying the words, "Excuse me," does not negate this kind of behavior. Only the little chick at the end of the book does the right thing by waiting for an answer from the other animals before shoving his way onto the elevator. I do agree with Hippo making room for the chick, because oftentimes you can make space for one more person.

Hippo's character is an accurate representation of how young children interpret the use of this phrase, though. The young ones in my classroom are often barreling past each other, uttering, "Excuse me," as they knock into someone. Our lesson then turns into stopping and waiting for the other person to move before continuing on. It bothers me that the mother is just as pushy as her son and never says a word during the entire book. She simply allows him to push his way through life. Again, this is an accurate representation of some parents I have seen. I would be more comfortable using this book as an introduction to using the phrase and coupled with a discussion about how to use it appropriately.

The large font used in the text and repetitive nature of the words will make the story appealing to young readers. Bright colors will attract their attention. The characters in the story are cute and funny in the illustrations. Their cartoonish expressions will bring smiles to kids' faces. I can see this book being pulled off a bookshelf time and time again.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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