Friday, September 4, 2009

The Unhappy Hippopotamus

Unhappy Hippopotamus
Nancy Moore ~ Edward Leight ~ Vanguard Press, 1957

Lordy, lordy, lordy. I doubt there's a mother alive who can't relate to this hippo on one day or another. The restlessness. The grass is always greener theme. The half pink and half black color scheme. Not to mention the size of the hippo's thighs. Ain't motherhood grand!?! Well, the hippo (Harriet) isn't really a mother. The down-in-the-dumpsness she's experiencing is unexplained, but still... the parallels are there. Or maybe it's just me.

Anywho, so yeah, Miss Harriet Hippopotamus isn't happy and in the midst of this melancholy, she's "completely and entirely and altogether" forgotten how to smile. In an effort to find her glee again, she leaves her river home and moves into a proper house. But still, the funk remains.

One day Harriet made a brand new friend. His name was Mouse. Mouse was always smiling. "Please," said Harriet, "Will you teach me how to smile again?" "Yes, indeed-indeed," said Mouse. "To smile you have to be happy. I know all sorts of ways to be happy. One way is to share things. So why don't you give a party?"

Well, a party is just the first step on the road to happiness... one that involves candy orgies and music and carousels and school and books and Christmas and snow men and dancing and Easter eggs and the movies and doctors and wishing on stars. Of course, leave it to a wise old owl to hold the key to happiness... You'll have to read the book to find out, but I will tell you this. It involves mud. Loads and loads of mud.

Stories about being true to yourself are the vanguard of children's books, and the wonderfully pink and plump Harriet wins your heart as she takes us through her sparse landscape of woe. Wonderful drawings full of depth and wit and amazing costumes. The dainty moo moos she dons are fab! (Check the two white buttons on the back of the cape. Incredible!) Let me tell you, nothing breaks your heart like the tears of a hippo, especially when the mood lightener is staring her right in the snout.

7 comments:

Vivi said...

How in the world can she ever be unhappy in all that wonderful pinkness?! Lovely book.

Swati said...

You've intrigued me - I must know what brought her smile back!

The Old Wolf said...

Eddie Leight was a close friend of my mother's. Not only could he draw, he made the most amazing Chocolate Mousse in the world. Mom used to have one of the original drawings from "Harriet" on her wall, but I haven't seen it for decades. Hope she still has it somewhere. It took me a while to locate all of the Nancy Moore / Edward Leight books on the net, but I finally found the last one: Ermintrude. These were among my favorites when I was a child, and I even got a dedication in "The Sandman Who Lost His Sand," which I have always cherished. Thanks for blogging about these wonderful stories!

Scribbler said...

such a wonderful memory... thanks so much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I had this book as a child. LOVED it. Where can I buy it now?

Rosie Faragher said...

Wow! This is really beautiful. I feel quite excited about it :)

libby said...

I just recently found my copy of my most favorite book as a child. I LOVE Harriet, her style is incomparable, and her tears made me cry too. The smile is from her huge hippo heart..
to this day I love to squish my toes into the mud, just as she does, and I smile too.

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