The Wonderful Thing About Hiccups, a picture book written by Cece Meng and illustrated by Janet Pedersen, is a silly story about libraries, hiccups, and hippos. A boy has to leave the library because he has the hiccups. While hanging upside down from a tree, he encounters a friendly hippo. Adventures ensue, all occurring around (an in one case on top of) the library. Most of the pages are written in the form of "the wonderful thing about" something happening is some unexpected benefit, followed by some side remarks. There are a few pages in which the narrator admits that "there's nothing wonderful about" something else happening, like a hippo getting a with a bellyache from accidentally eating library books. Each wonderful (or not-so-wonderful) thing leads into the next.
The humor is deadpan, and seems likely to appeal to four-year-olds (or at least it appeals to the four-year-old in me). For example:
"The wonderful thing about having a hippo carry your library books is that he can hold them high enough so they will not get wet in the sprinklers. Little sisters, on the other hand, get wet quite easily."
"... holding on to library books while riding a scared, running hippo is hard."
The Wonderful Thing About Hiccups concludes with a tongue-in-cheek, but basically accurate, list of "Library Rules to Remember." Like "When you are done, return them to the library so you can check out more books. Do not return them to the grocery store, pet store, or toy store. Never return them to space aliens." As for the librarian, she starts out looking a bit cranky, but reveals unexpected depths throughout the course of the book.
The bright watercolor illustrations are outlined in pen and crayon, and add considerably to the humor and details of the story. The hippo is downright coquettish, with expressive eyes. The boy is determined when looking for his lost sister, and bashful when he has to explain to the librarian how the sister ended up on the library roof. A pregnant woman walks by the children reading to the hippo in the library. She eyes them askance, while holding a barely visible copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting. Like she's thinking "hmm... this could be more difficult than I expected."
I personally found it a bit difficult at first to get into the "the wonderful thing" about x writing style. It's neither a pure narrative format nor quite poetry. The humor and the illustrations won me over, however. Not to mention the fact that there are library books featured on almost every page. Any book that ends with a bunch of kids sitting around a library, using books to help a hippo with hiccups, is ok by me. And although I haven't tried it out on any actual four-year-olds, I suspect that they'll find it hilarious. Try it out with kids who like silliness, and/or to lure reluctant visitors to the library.
Book: The Wonderful Thing About Hiccups
Author: Cece Meng (Author) and Janet Pedersen (Illustrator)
Publisher: Clarion Books
Original Publication Date: June 2007
Age Range: 4-8
Source of Book: A review copy from the publisher
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.