Reviewed by Katy Killilea
I haven’t been this excited about a board book since—ever. Hippopposites is the international literary debut of French designer Janik Coat, and brings heretofore unseen sophistication and graphic punch to that esteemed genre: opposites books.
Using one red, square-ish, cankled hippo to illustrate pair after pair of opposites, Coat has created a book that’s enchanting for the eyes and fun to read. Even groggy parents will be entertained, for at least the first ten readings. In the same way the suspense of an ABC book builds as readers wait to see how author handles letter X, I was anxious that Hippo might not be able to demonstrate concepts like thin or small with her signature panache. But she does it! And beautifully.
All of the basics: small/large, in front of/behind are here, as well as the zingers: clear/blurry, visible/invisible, dotted/striped. There are also some special tactile features—a die-cut full/empty and a soft/rough duo that chubby hands will reach out to stroke again and again. The last pair (spoiler alert!) illustrates alone/together, as a skinny little bird lands on the hunk of hippo. Aw, a friend! This leaves the reader with a glad feeling, as it’s a relief to know that this very worthwhile hippo we’ve grown so fond of winds up with someone.
Although I was initially disappointed that this isn’t a book about the Hip-hop-opotamus from Flight of the Conchords, Hippopposites is equally brain-tickling and clever—and much more appropriate for preschool.
Hippopposites by Janik Coat
May 2012 by AbramsAppleseed $15