The Hippo Years

THE HIPPO YEARS by Diana Murray

We had no idea what a fateful day it was when my husband (long before we were married) went to a health insurance expo in Manhattan. He came home with some free swag, including a hippo puppet from HIP insurance. Of course we had to try it on and take turns doing voices–because we’re silly like that. After some impromptu puppet antics, we stuffed the hippo in a drawer and forgot about it. Many months later, I was cleaning up and wondered if I should put the hippo puppet in the “giveaway” pile. But then I thought, who knows, maybe we’ll have kids one day and they can play with it. I’ll take any excuse to save stuff!

Fast forward a few years and we got married and had our first child. As she got older, Hippo never failed to make her laugh. He was the audience for her living room ballet performances, he tucked her in at night, and he helped her get through potty training by telling hilarious jokes and doing slapstick routines. “Do hippo!” my daughter would say. “Doing hippo” was her ultimate reward–better than lollipops and ice cream. Hippo was the funniest, silliest, best-est member of the family. We never left home without him. Sometimes it was tiring. As an adult, it’s tough to tap into your imagination like that all the time. “We can’t say no,” I used to tell my husband. “Because you know…pretty soon she’ll stop asking.” *sad face*

When baby #2 came along, Hippo was quick to welcome her, too. To familiarize her with all our inside jokes. We used him so often we had to recolor his pupils with black marker and cut off loose threads.

Hippo’s days were numbered…but not because of wear and tear. As time passed, living room ballet routines became less frequent. The line between fantasy and reality became less fuzzy. And offers by Mom and Dad to “do Hippo” were increasingly met with eye rolls. Poor Hippo.

Still, we will always remember the magic of the “Hippo years”. He’s even been immortalized in this drawing by Salina Yoon (something I won when she was promoting her book, FOUND, about a lost lovey).

My daughters no longer play with Hippo, but I asked if they’d mind me getting rid of him, just to see what they would say. They were outraged. “Are you kidding?” they said, “It’s Hippo!”

Diana Murray grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two daughters, and a spiky bearded dragon who loves listening to stories–especially about dinosaurs. Some of Diana’s other picture books include GRIMELDA: THE VERY MESSY WITCH, NED THE KNITTING PIRATE, CITY SHAPES, and many more. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Highlights, High Five, and Spider. For more information or to download free activities and coloring pages, visit

Here is a trailer for Diana’s most recent release (January, 2017), GROGGLE’S MONSTER VALENTINE, which was featured as a recommended title in the Washington Post.

Thank you, Diana, for sharing your lovey story! I’m so glad to know that Hippo has a loving forever home. Congratulations on all your wonderful picture books in the wild!

For anyone interested in contributing to the #WhosYourLovey blog series, inspired by my picture book LUCY’S LOVEY, please be in touch. Contact me here for detailed information on what is needed to be a guest blogger.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *