Saturday, 3 February 2018

How Billy Hippo Learned To Swim, by Vivian French and Hannah Foley, reviewed by Pippa Goodhart

This square book with a silky feel to its cover is a lovely example of Vivian French's skill in telling a simple, funny, positive story beautifully.

"All hippos love swimming!" .... or do they?  Whilst his parents and siblings enjoy sploshing and wallowing in the water, little Billy thinks that water is too cold and too wet.  His family try to encourage him in to swim, but Billy is adamant that he won't.  We, meanwhile, are noticing two other characters in the pictures.  A pair of frogs are watching the situation and hatching a plan of their own; one that in slapstick fashion sends Billy into the water 'with the biggest SPLASH of all'.  Oh dear!  There's a moment of tension as we wonder which way this is going to go ...

... but of course it does the trick, and soon Billy is swimming and swirling and wallowing in the water, and declaring, "I love swimming!"

A lovely book to share with small people, especially those just trying out swimming for the first time.  Hannah Foley's lively pictures are full of feeling and fun.  And publisher Little Door Books give a link to their website where you can access and download a free audio-book as well as some specially written songs.  That makes a lovely package for teachers or parents to use along with the book.


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