Summary: What do you need to feel happy about being different? Based loosely on real life experiences, this heartwarming and powerful book illustrates how self-awareness, and courage help a young boy named Raymond learn the difference between seeing things as they appear to be and seeing things as they are. Feeling “different and lonely” Raymond befriends a hippo while on Safari in Africa. Unlike other grey hippos, this hippo is pink. Ray is soon carried into a world beyond labels and challenging assumptions. You will never guess what happens next!
This is a picture book story about Ray and Rosie. Ray is a young boy from Vermont who’s visiting Africa with his family; Rosie is a different kind of hippo. She’s pink instead of gray! Ray asks her if it bothers her that she’s different, and her response is one that I would hope all young readers take to heart: at first it did, but not anymore. Ray is different too – it’s difficult for him to talk to other people. He’s more comfortable alone, but he wishes he were more like the other kids.
Rosie takes Ray on a trip down the river, and along the way Ray meets a crocodile who also defies his expectations, and hears the story of Eli-zee, a different kind of horse who discovers there are very important strengths to her differences.
Ray “wakes up” under an umbrella tree, and realizes that his “dream” was a different kind of safari (safari is the Swahili word for “long journey,” Ray’s Grandpa explains). By the end of the story Ray has started to understand that you can feel happy about being different, and shares his thoughts with his Grandpa.
I think this is a great story for kids at an early-to-mid elementary level. Many kids have something that makes them feel different, in particular kids on the autism spectrum. I have two children on the spectrum, and they’ve always struggled to fit in with their peers. The older of my two in particular badly WANTS to fit in and be accepted, but recognizes that he’s “different” from other kids his age. A story like that can help children like my son understand that it’s okay to be different – and sometimes (oftentimes) it’s even BETTER to have your own unique differences!
I received a complimentary ecopy of this book for review purposes; all opinions are my own.