The Hippo Blog

Waldorf West Children’s Book Week

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Waldorf West Library is part of the Charles County Public Library system in Southern Maryland.  On May 5th, 2015 we had the pleasure of giving a book reading and art class as part of the library’s Children’s Book week.  We had about 16 kids turn out with parents for Hickory Hippo and the Snow Mystery. The kids got to color Hickory Hippo art with crayons and Leanne gave some drawing lessons, from Hickory to My Little Pony. The kids seemed to have a great time listening and coloring. We had lots of fun being asked questions and seeing the reactions to the story and artwork!






A special thank you to Waldorf West Library ‘s Glenda for organizing the event and the hospitality of the library staff.



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Drawing Hickory Hippo

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rough1Inspired by her childhood toy (stuffed animal), Hickory Hippo was brought to visual life by artist Leanne Hannah.  In his first adventure, Hickory encounters a walking, talking snowman, a Marshroom, and Ridley Rabbit.  Each character had to be visualized on paper from the imaginations of the creators, which is no small task.

Big characters can be intimidating for the young reader and for little Hickory too.  For the snowman. with spindly arms and a missing nose, there is the potential for him to have quite a frightening appearance.  It was important to get the balance of his ghostly look and his benign intentions just right.

rough2Hickory is a character Leanne has drawn over the years for herself and family, so she already knew the character very intimately.  Capturing his curiosity and cuteness came relatively easy.  There is something about him that is gentle and quiet that makes him immediately trustworthy and appear to be a very good listener.

Leanne uses a mix of traditional and digital art to depict Hickory Hippo and his friends. Although she still uses paper and ink when sketching at events, the book itself was illustrated entirely with a Wacom drawing tablet in Manga Studio and Photoshop.  She still uses the same process as she would on paper, starting with a rough sketch to get the layout and character poses first.  When she is happy with the roughs, she then refines the lineart with digital inks.  The coloring is then completed on another layer, beneath the lineart, using gradients and shadows for added effect.

The process took several months to complete.  Here is an example of the lineart and finished colors…


hickory hippo fb cover

 A signed copy of the book is available for $15 through the Hickory Hippo online store.

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Hickory Hippo in the public libraries!

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10393966_10154874935160601_8862676049727548844_nLast week, Leanne and I donated copies of Hickory Hippo and the Snow Mystery to the Charles County public libraries, in Maryland, USA.  A special thank you to Leigh, Glenda and Candayce of the La Plata, Waldorf and Potomac branches for their enthusiasm and support.  Once the books are entered into the library system, they will be placed out on the shelves and be available for free as part of the literary resources of the local community.  Thanks to Neil Baker for this photo of his kids Harrison and Kaylee with their copy of Hickory Hippo.

Hickory  Hippo is a children’s picture book for ages 3 and up, with 32 pages and approximately 800 words.  The story follows an adventurous hippo named Hickory who sets out to help a snowman find his missing nose!  It is illustrated by Leanne Hannah, and written by husband, Rod Hannah.  The book is the first in a planned series celebrating the four seasons.  The Snow Mystery is just in time for Winter, with a Spring picture book to follow.  Hickory’s world is one of adventure and imagination, including walking snowmen, cloud sheep and underwater cities ruled by cats.

The local library reading and events program begins early next year and we have been invited to participate.  Along with book readings and signings, Leanne can show children how to draw Hickory Hippo.  More information to follow in the coming months. Watch this space!

Hickory Hippo and the Snow Mystery is available through the website store via Paypal, or through


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Hickory Hippo a hit with the kids!

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IMG_9228Hickory Hippo is proving a hit with little Eleanor.  The Polon family picked up an early copy of Hickory Hippo and the Snow Mystery.  Eleanor’s mother, Jordan, read all the parts where the Snowman didn’t have a nose with her nose held which created a lot of laughter.  “When we got to the rabbit, Jordan was like “uh oh! What do rabbits like to eat?” and Eleanor said “carrots!”  “And what are snowmen’s noses made of?”  Her eyes got all big and worried and she said “carrots!!”

Jordan said “she loves it. She wants to know if Hickory has a sister.”  The next day, Eleanor wanted it read to her again!

Help us get it into the homes of children like Eleanor across America and the world by spreading the word, or purchasing a  copy as a Christmas gift for the little ones in your life.  If you purchase Hickory Hippo through Amazon, and leave a book review you will be doing your bit to help Hickory find new readers.

A special thank you to the Polon family for sharing their Hickory experience with us!


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Well, here is some hippotastic news! The 32 page children’s storybook by husband and wife Rod and Leanne Hannah has arrived! Hickory Hippo and the Snow Mystery sees our little hero experience some winter fun as he helps a snowman get his smile back. The first in a series of children’s stories is now available to ship from the Hickory Hippo website and


“And the experience of self-publishing was not without drama. The shipment from China was delayed at customs in the United States and arrived while we were out of the country. For several days a huge wooden pallet of shrink-wrapped books sat on our driveway, despite assurances that UPS had not yet made the delivery. In that time a mysterious van pulled up and two strangers started poking about and trying to tear into the boxes! Fortunately this was witnessed by our wonderful neighbor, Dot, who actually got out of bed and went outside her house at 3 AM in the morning to scare the would-be-theives off!

Thanks to Dot, you can now get a copy for yourself or the little ones in your life! And yes, Dot received the very first copy of Hickory Hippo for free!

So, now that Hickory Hippo is here, we will be shipping out all the preorders to our early bird supporters. We need your help to get Hickory Hippo into the hands of kids in time for Christmas. If you have a nephew, or neice, grandchildren, kids, friends, anyone in your life who would enjoy a sweet little children’s story about an adventurous and helpful Hippo named Hickory, then please give our book a shot!” — Rod Hannah

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The story begins…

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When Leanne was a little girl, she had a soft toy hippo that she dressed in a red hoodie and loved dearly. She loved him so much that “Hippo,” as he was creatively known, got very dirty from all the play. So he was placed in the washing machine for a good clean. Sadly, Hippo did not enjoy the experience, as you might have guessed. He emerged very wet, and missing one of his two pink nostrils. Though Leanne is now older, she still has that dear old hippo sitting on her shelf. He’s been with her through all the good and bad. And now he has a new life as the star of Hickory Hippo!

When Rod met Leanne, he also met Hippo and introduced him to Platypus, a soft toy that he had kept since childhood. (Yes, Rod and Leanne both lacked originality when it came to naming their childhood friends!) Platypus has a story of his own. When Rod was a young lad, he was playing with his mother’s curling iron… never a good idea! It set fire to a beautiful wood chest and one of the sparks landed on Platypus, burning his webbed foot. Fortunately Rod’s mother was able to stop the house from catching fire, though Platypus has had a scar on his webbed-foot ever since.

Not long after Leanne and Rod were married, they decided they wanted to write and illustrate a children’s story together and that it should star their childhood friends, Hippo and Platypus. And so they gave them new lives and new looks as Hickory Hippo and Plato Platypus in the little village of Leaflake. Rod was inspired by the works of Alfred Bestall, writer and artist behind a childhood hero of his, Rupert Bear. For Leanne it was the children’s series Arthur by Marc Brown, and The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. It is Rod and Leanne’s hope that they might capture some of the wonder, mystery and adventure that excited them as children and inspire a new generation of young readers to imagine adventures of their own!

We hope you will join Rod, Leanne and Hickory on an adventure or two!

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