They say never judge a book by its cover. Yet here is a book that grabbed me from the moment I set eyes upon it. Just looking at the imagine filled me with questions. There’s a chameleon sat upon a keyhole. Through the keyhole is an image of a hippo. Then a simple, yet compelling tagline – Come now or come never.
The book is Kate Greenaway Medal winner Helen Cooper’s first novel and is published by David Fickling – another indicator that this will be something to behold. I cannot think of another publisher who publishes such beautifully crafted books. A hardback book always has a different feel. It gives the message of something to cherish and to immerse yourself in. This is no exception. Helen Cooper has not only written the story, but filled each page with wonderful pencil sketches that add depth to the story. It changes the fell from that of a simple read to an experience.
On to the story. Ben receives a strange invitation to the Gee Museum. It is a place which is rarely open and one that his mother does not want him visiting. Like all good characters, Ben doesn’t listen to his mum and sets off tor the museum. Here he meets the animal exhibits as they magically come to life. Before long, Ben discovers the museum is threatened with closure as the animals place their trust in him. He is the only chance the museum can be saved.
Now I love a good museum, as do most children in my experience, so it is refreshing to see one feature heavily in this story. It provides an interesting setting, yet also a vehicle by which mystery, myth and folklore can be introduced into the narrative. Cooper blends these elements to create an innocent, yet magical feel. One message stood out for me. Anything can be magical as a child, but as we grow older we lose that sense to reality. So strong was this message that I wove it into a story I was writing for my class last week.
The Hippo At The End Of The Hall has the feel of a classic children’s book to it. It doesn’t try to be anything different. You are sucked into a vividly described world full of the innocence of childhood and the power of believing. There’s moments of sadness and of loneliness, countered with a satisfying ending that will bring a smile to your face. Huge credit goes to Helen Cooper and the team at David Fickling for creating this book; one that stands out for many reasons.
If you liked this book, why not try: Starman and Me
Age Recommendation: 8-12 years
Pages: 400 pages
Publisher: David Fickling Books