Hungry Chipo

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Philippa Cleall, Hungry Chipo, Coastal Herd Tales, October 2019, 24 pp., RRP $14.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780994564764

In Hungry Chipo we meet Chipo the young and hungry Hippopotamus. Chipo is so hungry he is too tired to do his chores or go to school, “Chipo thinks he might just fade away”. When there are no students attending school the teachers and other community members realise they must help address the problem.

All the characters are African animals, and the book is written in both English and Swahili, so it offers a great introduction to Eastern Africa. The names of the animal characters in the English story are also Swahili words. Children could explore what these words mean in English as well as identifying the English names for each of the animals.

Cleall’s illustrations are charming, the animals are depicted with humanlike behaviours such as wearing clothes, having jobs, and sitting down at desks. This personification of animals helps to communicate the potentially difficult and upsetting human issue of hunger and poverty in a sensitive and approachable way for young children to understand.

A strong theme that emerges through the story is helping others. Readers can easily identify the characters who need help and those who provide help. Further discussion with children can help to identify some important and positive messages such as:

  • It is okay to need help
  • It is kind to offer help
  • Help can be offered in different ways
  • Problems can be fixed with help

Hungry Chipo is a deceptively simple book. It tells a simple and enjoyable story for children (aged 4-9 years) but in such a clever way that it offers an abundance of further learning for the reader, from exploring other countries, languages, animals, social issues and solutions. I highly recommend this book for teachers and parents to encourage a sense of empathy and inspiration in their young students or children.

Reviewed by Julie Bertola

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