Klay & Mark Lamprell (text) and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall (illustrator), Huberta’s Big Surprise, Scholastic Australia, August 2020, 24 pp., RRP $17.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781742994109
Huberta the hippopotamus enjoys surprises and likes surprising everyone. One day she is told she is to visit another zoo. The truck taking her breaks down, so Huberta decides she will make her own way there. On the Number 1 bus, the passengers are surprised to see a hippopotamus. On the number 2 tram to the beach, she does not speak to the octopus. Each further page introduces the next number, in an integrated way, and another form of transport: ferry and metro (underground train) as well as other creatures and people. The animals at Huberta’s new zoo are waiting to surprise her, but she does not arrive: her surprise to them. The last form of transport has captured her attention as she flies away on in a hot air balloon.
I am not a great fan of anthropomorphic animals, but the reader sees a mix of animals and human passengers as Huberta undertakes her journey, and the concept works, helped by the elements of humour throughout. The publication information accompanying the book states that it is loosely based on a true story. It must be very loosely based as it quite improbable, but the reader can suspend credulity. The digitally created illustrations complement the verbal text and are well spaced on the pages. Some are whole pages, some run across the gutter and others are smaller and unframed, leaving the reader plenty of white space.
A fun story which many readers from aged 3 upwards will enjoy.
Reviewed by Maureen Mann