The Message Is “We're All Different”

There are a great many kids who feel lonely and think they don’t fit in. Let’s face it, children like to be just like those around them and often don’t have the skills to understand and appreciate what makes them unique and special.

In the book, A Different Kind of Safari, by Helen C. Hipp, (available both in a book and audio format), the story is inspired by a real African safari that the author took with her 14-year-old special needs son, Ray. On the trip, Ray spotted a hippo gone solo, standing apart from the herd. This particular hippo was not only alone, she was pink. Ray asked the guide why the hippo was a loner –– the answer inspired the book.

The story continues with Rosie, the hippo, taking fictional Ray on a wonderful trip; along the way they meet a striped horse (yes, a zebra) who feels ostracized and explains how she overcame her fears about not fitting in. The story is a splendid teaching device as it helps kids understand their feelings while relating to the interesting animals and their sensitivities.

Author Helen Hipp is well qualified to address emotional issues as she has an M.A. in counseling and began her career as a psychotherapist. Appointed by former Vermont governor Peter Shumlin to the Committee on Employment for People with Disabilities, Helen used her years of practical experience to advocate for special needs people. She has written for various magazines and been a special needs consultant to a major television station in Burlington, VT. The delightful illustrations in A Different Kind of Safari, that contribute greatly to the book’s charm, are the work of Vermont artist Hillary Ann Love Glass.

The tale helps children look beyond labels and start to see situations and characters as they really are –– not as they initially appear. The author’s own experiences with her son, now 29, as well as her professional training and work, have crystallized to create a story that is both heartwarming and a great lesson, told engagingly so that youngsters and their elders can all enjoy it.

A Different Kind of Safari is 32 pages with colorful illustrations on nearly every page. The target age of the reader runs from 9 to 14, but younger and older will enjoy it — something to point out to your adult shoppers who are likely to be thrilled with a book for kids that is also gratifying for them. The book has been a recommended resource by Barnes and Noble as part of their National Education Appreciation Days for the past three years.

A Different Kind of Safari educates, integrates, and celebrates differences and educators like it for its ability to open up wonderful discussions as children begin to figure out how they are both the same and different from other people. Kids learn that different isn’t bad, but something to celebrate and embrace. Finding out how to be happy with the skin you’re in is a useful message. Parents, teachers and others who deal with children find the book a useful, engaging resource that helps kids grapple with one of life’s hard questions: Who am I and what am I doing? Whether differences are racial or ethnic, rooted in personality or a problem, A Different Kind of Safari gives youngsters and adults around them a new perspective.

Different doesn’t matter: