How To Clean A Hippopotamus: A Look At Unusual Animal Partnerships

Written and Illustrated by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

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Eew! That smell of dirty socks? It’s actually the hippopotamus hiding in the closet. Quick, how do we clean the hippo and get rid of that smell? Now we have a book that tells us. Young readers will be enticed by its unusual title: of course they want to know how to clean a hippo, and in reading the book they’ll learn all about symbiosis in the natural world.

The back matter tells us that there are many kinds of symbiotic relationships in nature. In this book we learn about mutualism: a partnership which benefits all the animals involved. The hippo, for example, spends most of the day in the water. Algae and water plants make its skin slimy. Enter the African helmeted turtle who nibbles away at the slime. In return, the cold blooded turtle rides on the hippo’s back, warming itself in the sun.

The book is filled with fascinating facts. Clownfish and sea anemone have a symbiotic relationship. But we learn how, to begin with, the clownfish are not immune to the sea anemone’s toxin. They build that immunity over time, slowly exposing themselves to the stinging tentacles till their body adapts to the toxin. Do they become immune to all sea anemone? No. Only to the anemone they interacted with. And if they are away from the anemone for more than 45 minutes they have to start the process of building up immunity all over again.

Third graders, even middle schoolers, will be enchanted by this collection of facts. Teachers can schedule reading activities and reading games — the graphic novel format lends itself to many activities. The book is rich in resources: in the back matter the authors provide additional information (size, habitat and diet) about all the animals mentioned in the book.


Additional Resources:

Fascinating look at book making:

  • Clean a HippopotamusTitle: How To Clean A Hippopotamus: A Look At Unusual Animal Partnerships
  • Author: Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
  • Illustrator: Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Paperback:  32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-99484-0
  • Genre: Picture Book/ Non-Fiction
  • Lexile Score: 950GN

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