Review: Hippopotamister by John Patrick Green

Meta use of anthropomorphic animals in story of self-acceptance.

Publication Date: 10th May 2016
Publisher: First Second Books

Hippopotamister is a graphic novel aimed at younger readers, with great characters and an entertaining premise. The conclusion is a wonderful – if somewhat predictable – tying up of loose ends, and an excellent positive note to end on. John Patrick Green has also not missed out on the opportunity for humour, and a quick reminder that ‘being yourself’ is always better than trying to be anyone else.

The plot and character development is just right, and the story flows well. There does seem to be an odd disparity between a fairly traditional ‘picture book’ story, and a length of over 32 pages, but once the reader gets used to the format that is easily forgotten. The text is also riddled with puns, making it a consistently enjoyable read. A personal favourite is a literal interpretation of ‘balancing the books’, which is not commented on but lies within the illustrations as an in-joke between writer and reader.

The jewel in the book’s crown is definitely its illustrations. The various jobs that Red Panda and Hippopotamister take on are wonderfully recreated, and Hippopotamister’s natural talent in all of them is comically juxtaposed with Red Panda’s apparent ineptitude. A wonderful bonus comes at the end, in the form of a couple of instructional pages on trying your hand at drawing the characters yourself. This compounds the pleasure from the story and allows the reader to engage in another way.

I would recommend this book to children in the older end of the picture book age bracket, simply because of its length, but also to anyone partial to a humorous graphic novel. It would also make an excellent graduation present for any young people just entering the job market.

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