100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Nonfiction Monday: How to Clean a Hippopotamus by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships
By Steve Jenkins & Robin Page
Houghton Mifflin
ISBN: 9780547245157
Grades K-3
In Stores

*Best New Books*

If you’re like me (and you should hope you’re not – my chocolate milk habit is out of hand), you sometimes become oblivious to greatness. Certain authors and illustrators churn out work of such consistent quality, you begin to take it for granted. Over the course of his prolific career, Steve Jenkins had fallen into this category for me. He has been placed squarely in my mental file cabinet labeled “These Guys & Gals are Solid”. So when I saw that he and Robin Page had a new book out, How to Clean a Hippopotamus, I didn’t run to read it. I knew it would be good, so I wasn’t in a hurry. I should have run. Superb in content and illustration Hippopotamus will surely go down as one of the best nonfiction books of 2010.

After the title page, the first spread provides an overview of what readers are getting themselves into. Crabs and anemones, coyotes and badgers, crocodiles and plovers – members of the animal kingdom frequently team up in unexpected ways for mutual benefit. In the pages that follow we see each of these partnership play out as vignettes, bringing the reader along for the ride as the setting jumps from the African savannah to the Galapagos islands and all points in between. At every step the text guides the way, appearing in boxes and on top of the illustrations, describing how the partnerships work.

There’s a lot of information crammed into this short book. The range of symbiotic relationships covered is impressive, each described succinctly in comic-like panels. These team-ups will surprise and amuse young readers, who will likely find a favorite partnership among the many. While there doesn’t seem to be an organizational rhyme or reason for when each team-up appears, this doesn’t affect the overall success of the information presented.

The back matter includes a description of of symbiosis, and a list of books for further reading. Also included are brief descriptions of every animal that appears in the book, with size, habitat, and diet information. This helpful addition increases classroom-related usefulness and if nice to see.

The illustrations are nothing short of lovely. If you know Jenkins, then you know what to expect here – meticulous cut paper artwork that is visually interesting and accurate. The sheer variety of paper used is a sight to see, always nailing the color and texture of the animal portrayed.

Appropriate for fact-finding or for pleasure reading, How to Clean a Hippopotamus is a must-add for your nonfiction collection.

Review copy from library.

Click here to check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Abby (the) Librarian.

Click the image below to watch to book trailer for How to Clean a Hippopotamus. This gives a great sense of what the book is all about:

Also reviewed by A Patchwork of Books, Abby (the) Librarian, Kids Lit, A Year of Reading.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I’ve been meaning to review this book for a while. Got a copy this spring and loved it, but I tend to love most of what Jenkins does.