16 Page Read: Hippos Go Berserk!

Hippos Go Berserk! by Sandra Boynton
Hippos Go Berserk! by Sandra BoyntonSometimes, the simplest things in a children’s book appeal to us adults. It might be a subtle artistic detail – the rolling of an eye, the distracted look, the cobweb in the corner that validates the fact that I, too, haven’t bothered to dust my bookshelves for the ten weeks since Sierra arrived. (And, to be honest, the 25 weeks before that.)

It might be a cleverly worded sentence – blunt enough to cause a burst of laughter, a rat-tat-tat that awakes a snoozing baby, rendering the story useless unless read during the waking hours.

Sandra Boynton has packed her short, board-designed books with these looks and sentences. And no one line amuses me more than the titular sentence from her book Hippos Go Berserk!

The book – as all children’s books are wont to do – features a lesson; counting from one to nine. The lesson is told through a boring day in the life of a hippo – a sad, lonely looking hippo who invites two friends. These two friends invite three more, etc. until nine hippos dressed as wait staff arrive at the lonely hippo’s door.

And, as promised, the hippos exhibit some darling looks. A wary glance over the shoulder. A stone bored stare at a fellow hippo. A shifty look of deceit. The 45 hippos that end up in the house may all look the same, but trust me; they all have a special place – a unique trait, a personality unlike any other hippo in the room.

So 45 hippos are packed into one house. What happens?


Just like that, I’m satiated. It’s a line that always fills me with joy – usually wondering how five words in a children’s book could make me laugh so hard. It’s improbable. Why is it funny? Really?

Maybe it’s the fact that none of the hippos are actually going berserk. Maybe it’s the fact that it was so unexpected the first time I read it. Maybe it’s because after they go berserk over the two pages in the middle of the book, they all start leaving.

Probably, it’s the idea of these sarcastic looking hippos all attempting to go berserk in one place, surrounded by waiter and waitress hippos, some in fancy clothes, some simply looking around wondering why they ever bothered to arrive, while the lonely hippo who started our tale dances on the table with a phone receiver on his head – the only hippo to actually bother going berserk.

Or, maybe it’s just the unknown power of the “sense of humor,” a collection of remembrances and triggers that are as different in humans as fingerprints or dental records. The simplest things can trigger laughter. No one knows why. It just does.

One by one, the hippos leave. Actually, more accurately, nine by eight by seven, etc. until one hippo, alone once more, finds he misses the other forty four.

I always seem to miss them too. So, to the chagrin of my daughter – resulting in the first of a series of perceived eye rolls, I’m sure – I read it again.

Reading fathers go berserk!

This was lovingly handwritten on October 8th, 2007