The Most Depressing Kids’ Book Ever (1669-1691)

I have a book in my house I’m dying to get rid of. But I can’t.

Scrote picked it up in the free bin and gave it to me for Mother’s Day several years back. He even signed his name in it. I know why he selected it, it’s about hippos and he loves hippos, and it only has two words: mama and baby. An eye tracking issue has made reading (until very recently) a challenge so the less words the better. The problem is that it has to be the most depressing book ever.

It starts with a baby hippo and his mama. They swim and play and snuggle and are in love. Then mama is swept away by a tsunami. Forever. How heavy is that? Baby searches the ocean until he is washed ashore and captured by men who puts him in a zoo. He follows around a tortoise and they bond while mama’s spirit watches over them. The end.

My best guess is that it is a story about adoption and resilience but oh geez. I don’t really want to have the conversation about “What if you die, mommy? Will someone come take us away? Is a total stranger going to be our mom?” I mean, that kind of thing happens (hopefully not to us) but I don’t want to deal with this before bed. Or ever.

I had forgotten all about it until Testy selected it for book time. Books have a way of getting lost in these parts and turning up years later. I took a quick glance at it and asked, “Why do you want me to read this book? It  only has two words.” and Testy was like, “I want you to read it, it’s the saddest book ever.” and Scrote was like, “Yah, it’s the saddest book ever.” I was all, “Okaaaayyyy, you asked for it.” So I read it to the boys (more like I flipped through pages and cringed as the inevitable unfolded) and the boys sobbed and wailed. Wailed. Tears streaming down their faces. And I’m wondering, what’s with this desire to emote? Is life too easy for them? Is hardship such a novelty that they seek out sad stories? I could probably do something about that.

Testy has always been fascinated by adoption and parents dying. I think Zeb showed them Sophie’s Choice (not about adoption, I know, but it was so sad) when I wasn’t looking. Let’s face it, Disney is fascinated with orphans and most good adventures start with losing one’s family. Or more likely, he heard about a family in his school that adopted two children from Africa. The story was heartbreaking and I think it got to him. After that he made up a story about how his favorite stuffed animal’s parents died in the war and put him on the train and that’s how he came to live with us. Where does this come from?


That pretty much sums it up. It’s a true story. I’m not pretending I wrote this book. See? Here’s the publisher info. You should buy it.


Aren’t you happy? Not for long.


Oh shit! Let the crying begin.


This sucks.


Awesome, let’s add some horror.


I don’t know you but will you be my mom?


Happily ever after. But tell that to my kids who are sobbing.

Giving me this book was a terribly sweet gesture but I never want to read it again. I don’t want to deal with two boys wallowing in self-inflicted misery. If I wanted that, I would have had girls.

That said, I guess I’m keeping the book. I have to. But I’ll get rid of these books instead:


Twenty-three items (including files)


I love the genre of “The Little Red Caboose”. The subtext is that anyone who dares to be an individual will get his comeuppance with the collusion of the community. FREE.


There is no book out there that can tell my boys anything they don’t know about pre-historic sea creatures. FREE.


“How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight” is one of the best picture books ever. All the other ones suck. You can feel the author do the bare minimum to collect a paycheck. FREE.


A random stuffed animal and files. FREE.

9 thoughts on “The Most Depressing Kids’ Book Ever (1669-1691)

  1. Hi Vivienne, I think I’m just a few years behind you in this parenting thing…my boys are 2 and 4. Anyways they are crazy about dinosaurs and sharks and I would love to come get those books. Also, kind of random, but I am about to look for one of those wheely contraptions to attach to a convertible carseat to make getting through the airport easier…any chance you have one of these are want to unload? Let me know.

    Love reading your blog, Ida Mae

    • Thanks for reading Ida! You can have the books. I’ll email you personally with the details. I am familiar with the wheely contraptions and I had two at one point, but I sold them long ago.

  2. Vivienne, I love your blog and look forward to it every day. You make me laugh out loud…Don’t know if you’re aware, but I think this book about the hippo and tortoise is based on the true story of Owen and Mzee…Google it!

    • I’ve actually seen the story in other places, and it is very sweet. The book, to my kids, was rather traumatic however. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

  3. What I meant to say was, the true story is actually kind of sweet…the unlikely pairing of the tortoise and the hippo…

  4. Pingback: Cathartic Crying Session (6443-6444) | Vivienne's Process of Elimination

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