Review: The First Hippo on the Moon by David Walliams
Actor, comedian and author David Walliams’ second picture book The First Hippo on the Moon is a tale of two hippos, or so the book begins. In reality, it is more the tale of one hippo, Sheila, who dreams big. Her adversary, Hercules Waldorf-Franklin III, learns that that privilege and money can’t trump determination and a band of jungle friends.
The First Hippo on the Moon has a genuinely broad appeal, from three years upwards. It is a picture book, but definitely not a baby or young toddler picture book. Walliams’ talent for engaging older readers through his popular children’s novels is very evident, and the vocabulary used extends the range beyond the usual cut-off for a picture book.
The main reason for the wide age appeal is the humour. Bottom humour to be precise, and hippo-sized at that. It gives the book a rip-roaring ending that will raise a snigger from even the most sophisticated reader. Tony Ross’s illustrations are bold and fun, but they also have a wonderful level of detail that will reward parents and children with something new on each reading. The text forms part of the illustration, highlighting and punctuating the story and giving it pace and energy in all the right places. This makes it great fun to read aloud, but also supports children as they grow older and begin to read alone, helping them to discover the natural rhythm and drama of the story for themselves.
The First Hippo on the Moon is a delightful romp, taking Sheila the hippo from her home in the jungle to the moon and back again. It successfully bridges the gap between early picture books and the more advanced titles for first readers. A great addition to any child’s bookshelf.