[Book Review] Does a Hippo Go to the Doctor? by Harriet Ziefert


This eARC was downloaded for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Does a Hippo Go to the Doctor? is an installment in Harriet Ziefert's "Think About" series, specifically focusing on "how everyone keeps healthy". And I have to admit that I'm a little less than impressed.

First of all, the book and I got off on the wrong foot. Before the story starts, there is a "Dear Parents" letter from the author, and it definitely rubbed me the wrong way. It opens thus:

Children’s earliest experiences with stories and books usually involve grown-ups reading to them. However, reading should be active, and as adults, we can help young readers make meaning of the text by prompting them to relate the book to what they already know and to their personal experiences.

From there, it goes on to explain how to read the book to your child in the way that Harriet Ziefert thinks is best. And here's the thing... I know how to read to a child, and I do not remotely care how the author would prefer I read his or her book to either myself or a child or anyone else. While the letter was obviously well-intentioned, it came across as more superior than helpful.

So, like I said, not off to a good start... but on to the book itself.

I quite like the concept. As the cover promises, Does a Hippo Go to the Doctor? is meant to open the subject of health up to a child by looking at it from both a human and nonhuman perspective. And honestly, I don't think it quite accomplishes that. The nonhuman-focused pages are split into two unofficial sections: one that establishes that wild animals do not go to the doctor and one that establishes that housepets and farm animals go to doctors called veterinarians. Then it's on to human health with a few pages devoted to tools doctors use (including "sphygmomanometer", a word which has no business being in a book for toddlers) and a single page devoted to what a yearly checkup consists of.

Basically, the book is simply trying to cover too much territory, and in doing so, it seems to have forgotten its premise of "think[ing] about how everyone keeps healthy". What it covers is more along the lines of medical vocab and the fact that (most) wild animals don't have the luxury of medicine, surgery, and monitoring. Perhaps I'm alone in this, but my expectation of "think[ing] about how everyone keeps healthy" would be more along the lines of exploring how undomesticated animals survive without medicine and what a pediatrician actually does and why.

Does a Hippo Go to the Doctor? isn't terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but it's far from what I hoped it would be. If you're going to use it to help teach your child about medicine, I highly recommend complementing it with something more comprehensive... or at least more focused.

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