Make Way for “Hippopposites”

June 13, 2012 Comments Off on Make Way for “Hippopposites”

If there was ever a children’s book destined for the Museum of Modern Art, this would be it. Until then, Janik Coat’s newly published Hippopposites (Ages 18 mos-5 yrs) will find a perfect home alongside the Oeuf cribs and Tripp Trapp Chairs of today’s urban nurseries. From the thick oversized board pages, finished in an ultra high gloss, to the bold die-cut silhouettes, this book is a tour de force in graphic design.

But artistic achievement aside, what impressed me most when I encountered this gem on the shelves of my local bookstore is: FINALLY, a book that actually teaches the concept of opposites. There are lots of fun rhyming read-alouds that make use of opposites to tell their stories (see my list below), but they’re equal part silliness. Until now, I’m going to bet that kids have never mastered their opposites from reading books.

Enter Hippopposites, where on each double spread, two hippos are contrasted with a simple text word beneath each one; props and background scenery are used sparingly, providing just the right amount of detail to get the point across. The usual suspects are touched on in the early pages: “small” versus “large” (with the first hippo miniaturized next to a skyscraper); and “light” versus “dark” (with the second almost completely obscured by a black background). But we quickly advance into more exciting territory, with “thin” versus “thick” (denoted by the width of the silhouetted line), “opaque” versus “transparent,” “dotted” versus “striped,” “invisible” versus “visible,” and “alone” versus “together” (in this last pairing, the only difference is that the hippo in the second picture has a bird perched on its back).

The book’s artsy publisher, Abrams, doesn’t miss an opportunity for some seriously cool touch-and-feel action: the “soft” versus “rough” page makes use of delicate pink chenille and a woven burlap sack. Don’t let the board book format fool you: this book will hold its own with older preschoolers, introducing concepts like “squared” versus “rounded,” as well as “left” versus “right.” Now if I could only pry the book out of my husband’s hands, I could actually read it to my children…


Other Favorites With Opposites (albeit of the goofier, less educational sort):
Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox (Ages 1-3)
Big Little and Quiet Loud, by Leslie Patricelli (Ages 1-3)
Go Dog Go, by P.D. Eastman (Ages 2-4)

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