Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks

Children - Picture Book
32 Pages
Reviewed on 06/18/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers' Favorite

Kubwa the hippopotamus saw Zuri the giraffe as he peered above the river water level. Zuri had long legs, a neck that stretched high, and was skinny. Even her nose was skinny, and Kubwa called her skinny. Zuri was annoyed and she told Kubwa that he was tubby, had a big mouth, and fat cheeks. She told Kubwa she could eat fresh, clean leaves from the tall trees, and he was eating the grass which he walked on and where other animals had pooped. Zuri went on to say she was the tallest animal in the world. Five other hippopotamuses put their heads out of the water and asked Kubwa who his skinny friend was. They both started arguing with each other but suddenly something dreadful happened!

Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks by Joseph Cassis is an adorable story about friendship, being unique, self-love, and accepting the differences of others. It is interesting how Kubwa and Zuri call each other names, and how they end up helping each other when there is a crisis. The facts about giraffes and hippopotamuses are quite informative and educational to young readers, and will also create an awareness of the challenges faced by giraffes in the wild. The author's illustrations breathe life into the story and give it a good pace and movement. It is a beautiful story and Joseph Cassis beautifully portrays Zuri and Kubwa, making their personalities and characters memorable. Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks is good for read-aloud and storytelling sessions in classrooms and homes because of the positive message it conveys, thereby helping children to be happy with themselves and accepting of themselves and others for what they are.

Rosie Malezer

Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks is an educational children's tale both written and illustrated by Joseph Cassis. Kubwa the hippopotamus and Zuri the giraffe live in a country called Tanzania. Each and every day, they exchange colorful insults regarding the vast differences in how they look and what they eat. Zuri is teased for being so tall and skinny, whereas Kubwa is mocked due to his wide girth and much shorter height. Constantly the two animals banter back and forth, insulting one another, until the day a wildfire suddenly invades their lands. Without hesitation, Kubwa provides immediate protection for Zuri in the river away from the flame. After the fire has passed, Zuri sees that Kubwa's food supply is burned, but happily assists in providing food from the tall trees above.

So many wonderful lessons are learned in this tale, not only in saving the lives of our so-called enemies but also in cooperation with one another in the aftermath to enable us to survive. Joseph Cassis's wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated tale teaches these lessons to readers of Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks. Also provided is geographical information about each animal and the country where they reside. Humor is included in the tale in the form of how food has been recycled back into the earth, but should not be eaten as nourishment. Not only did Joseph Cassis provide brightly colored imagery on each page, but the story itself left me wanting to learn more about these wonderful animals and Tanzania. I fully recommend this book to readers aged 5-12 and believe Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks would make a wonderful addition to both home and school libraries alike.

Jon Michael Miller

Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks, written and magnificently illustrated by Joseph Cassis, is a story for little kids that dramatizes the point that differences in appearance make life interesting and should not be used for fighting each other. The skinny legs belong to Zuri, the giraffe. Zuri means beautiful and graceful in Swahili. As Zuri is walking along the riverbank, Kubwa (large and great), a hippopotamus, starts calling her “skinny” in a mocking manner. Zuri’s feelings are hurt and she mocks back calling Kubwa tubby and fat. They argue back and forth, each calling the other names. Then a brown monkey shows up calling, “Fire, fire!” Zuri is scared because she’s terrified of getting into the river. Then something amazing happens, but I’ll leave that for the reader to discover.

Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks is a book that I will share with my great-granddaughter because it teaches the lesson that though we may look different, we can still be friends, and maybe we appear as we do for a reason. Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks by Joseph Cassis can be a small step in teaching kids to honor each other’s appearance and to help one another with their difficulties. Cassis’s drawings are not only colorful and accurate, they match with the words to make them funny. For instance, “the end.” The story also can teach some great words: name-calling, chomp, raging, huddle, balance, charred, strolls. An added plus to Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks is the information about hippos and giraffes in the introduction. Finally, Cassis brings to light the sad fact that giraffes are facing extinction and he provides us with information to help in their preservation.

Lois Henderson

The colorful picture book Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks, both written and illustrated by multi-award-winning Joseph Cassis, is set in the Serengeti National Park, which is located in Tanzania, on the east coast of Africa. Aimed at pre-schoolers aged one to seven years old, the story revolves around two central characters―Kubwa (meaning “large” and “great” in Swahili, which is the country’s official language) and Zuri (meaning “beautiful” and “graceful” in Swahili). While Kubwa is a large hippopotamus, living in both the water and on land, Zuri is a tall giraffe, being one of the many that frequent the plains of Africa. Starting by calling each other names and trading insults (for they are so totally different from each other, how can they possibly agree?), Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks shows how animals can get on well with each other when they are confronted by a common enemy, which, in this story, is fire.

I thoroughly enjoyed how Joseph Cassis brought out the educational side of the story of Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks, as well as how he reveled in the storytelling itself. Cassis’s multi-dimensionality is shown in that he both wrote and illustrated Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks, and that he is a grandfather who prides himself on his close relationship with the younger members of his family. This shows in the careful consideration that he has applied to this work. Opening the book with some facts about hippopotamuses and giraffes (especially given as background information for the adult reader who might be unfamiliar with the habits and way of life of the two types of animal), Cassis ends it with information about the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), “whose mission it is to save giraffes from extinction”. Combining both entertainment and enlightenment for both old and young, Skinny Legs and Fat Cheeks should prove to be capable of appealing to a multicultural audience across the board.