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Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson Children's Book Review and Preschool Lesson Plan


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Story Summary

Hilda Must Be Dancing, a children's picture book by Karma Wilson and Suzanne Watts combines pleasing rhyming text full of onomatopoeia, an interesting problem-solution storyline, and gorgeous eye-popping illustrations in brilliant blues, greens, and pinks.

Hilda is a unique hippo with a great passion for dancing and one BIG problem—gravity! Her friends want her to be happy pursuing her passion, but they find all of the movement creates quite a problem in the jungle.

And while she danced in utter bliss, it sounded quite a lot like this: Ka-Bump! Ka-Bump! CRASH! CRASH! SMASH!

And yet, Hilda persists in pursuing her dream of becoming a dancer, until her friends tactfully try to convince her to try a less boisterous hobby, like knitting. Through trial, error and persistence, Hilda finally finds the PERFECT expression of her interests that honors her individuality and causes less havoc and destruction.

Read the book to find out what it is!

Suzanne Watts' brilliantly-colored illustrations greatly enhance this story. Each page finds Hilda twirling and spinning in a different outrageous costume, including disco pants and heart-shaped sunglasses! The exhuberant dance costumes worn by Watt's hippo heroine are a wonderful addition to this cute story and will keep readers coming back to this story again and again.

Themes in Hilda Must Be Dancing

  • Jungle Animals
  • Hippos
  • Dancing
  • Hobbies
  • Self-Expression
  • Discovering Interests
  • Individuality
  • Problem-Solution
  • Community
  • Values - Persistence

Other Books by Karma Wilson

Reading Readiness


This is a great, engaging story with catchy rhyming text that will appeal to young toddlers. This story will be more appropriate for lap reading at earlier ages.


This book has many thematic elements that will appeal to the 3-5 year-old age group. Some of the dance-related vocabulary will be unfamiliar to the children, but the entertaining story is easy to understand. You can easily share this as a read-aloud selection for reading in groups of children in this age range.


Kindergarten teachers may be interested in using this story in themes about individuality, hobbies, trying new things, dancing, or jungle animals.

Emergent Readers

The pleasing combination of rhyming words, dance vocabulary, and humorously detailed illustrations make this a great book for any emergent reader or pre-reader to read with a parent. The refrain "Hilda Must Be Dancing!" is repeated throughout the text of the story, providing groups of children with an entry point for actively participating in a reading of the book.

Related Books: Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton

Related Books: Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton

But Not the Hippopotomus by Sandra Boynton

But Not the Hippopotomus by Sandra Boynton

The Boy Who Was Followed Home by Steven Kellogg

The Boy Who Was Followed Home by Steven Kellogg

Veronica by Robert Duvoisin

Veronica by Robert Duvoisin

Veronica on Petunia's Farm by Robert Duvoisin

Veronica on Petunia's Farm by Robert Duvoisin

Angelina Ballerina by Katherine Holabird

Angelina Ballerina by Katherine Holabird

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton

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Pair this book about a dancing hippo with other exhuberant books about dancing animals, or share this in a storytime featuring hippos. Here are some recommended titles to help you get started.

Books Featuring Hippos

  • Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton is a silly counting book featuring a hilarious herd of hippos.
  • But Not the Hippopatumus! by Sandra Boynton is another book starring her adorable and outrageous hippos. Like the above title, this book is also appropriate for very young toddlers.
  • The Boy Who Was Followed Home by Steven Kellogg is another zany hippo story, but it offers a dry, tongue-in-cheek brand of humor that may be more easily appreciated by older preschoolers and up. What could be worse than a boy being followed home by a hippo? How about being followed home by a whole herd of hippos!
  • Veronica and Veronica on Petunia's Farm are two titles by Robert Duvoisin are two titles starring a sweet and likeable hippo who has some remarkable adventures. The illustrations in these books are reminiscent of the Madeline books. The second title is a more seriously-themed story about Veronica trying to fit in, and being teased rather horribly by the animals on the farm. If you can handle a little heart-tugging, then this story would be an excellent selection to share in a classroom setting in a classroom unit about bullying.

Books About Dancing

  • Angelina Ballerina by Katherine Holabird is the first in a series of books about an adorable little mouse named Angelina who loves to dance. Her parents finally allow her to take ballet lessons so she can become a true ballet star. This story and its many sequals has a broad appeal to many ages, with finely detailed drawings by Helen Craig.
  • Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton is a wonderful board book that will have very young readers do-si-doing with the cows and the pigs and the chickens.
  • Dance With Me by Charles R. Smith Jr. and Noah Z. Jones is an oversized picture book featuring two lively dancing children who dance through the street on their way to a party. This book features a rhyming story with a catching refrain "Shake, shake, shake it baby, come and dance with me!"
  • I Hope You Dance by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers and illustrated by Buddy Jacksona and Karinne Caulkins features the positive message "I hope you dance." This book names a delightful variety of dance moves from the hokey pokey to the zydeco polka. This will be a fun and fitting addition to any dance-related storytime.
  • The Hokey Pokey by Larry LaPrise is a vibrantly-detailed illustrated picture book adaptation of the famous favorite children's song. A great addition for sharing in library or preschool story hour.
Dance With Me by Charles R. Smith

Dance With Me by Charles R. Smith

I Hope You Dance by Leann Womack

Do the Hokey Pokey Dance

Preschool Lesson Plan

Hilda Must Be Dancing is a great selection for a preschool story time at a library or in preschool or daycare circle time. This children's story is adaptable to several different themed lessons, including "I am Unique," "Dancing," and "Hippos." For example, in a dance-themed lesson, you could emphasize "It doesn't matter how big or small you are, anyone can dance!"

Music and Movement

Music is an essential part of any early-childhood curriculum, whether it be at the local library, in a preschool classroom, or in a small cooperative preschool.

Begin your lesson with the same song you usually begin with. Ours is "If You're Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands." Another excellent choice is Hap Palmer's "Shake Your Sillies Out."

Have a children's dance video/DVD prepared. Sing along and dance to the images on the screen with the children. Make sure the kids have a little bit of room to dance around.

Transition Idea

Get the children ready to sit still and read. Tell children that we're going to shake out all of our wiggles and giggles.

  • Shake your head
  • Shake your hands
  • Shake your feet
  • Shake your nose

Put your hands on your lap, and zip your lips! (Make a zipper motion across your lips. Whisper the last part so children really have to listen to hear what you are saying.)


Quickly "pre-read" the story. Show the children the cover. Ask them what type of animal is there. Show them the cover page. Point to Hilda's ballet shoes. Ask what is she doing?

Read the story aloud. (Note that you should practice this at least once, so you don't become tongue-tied). Children can participate in the reading by saying the refrain with you "Hilda must be dancing!"

At the end of the story, have the children guess the solution before you read the ending. What is Hilda's new hobby going to be? Encourage participation, even if the guesses are silly. Being right isn't that important.

If your children are older than 4 1/2, you may want to read a second story. Knowing your audience's attention span is helpful here.


Here are some crafts you can make to integrate into your story hour.

More Children's Book Reviews

I have written over 40 reviews of my favorite children's books here on HubPages. Please feel to explore some of my favorite children's books listed here.

Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett · A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams · Babies by Gyo Fujikawa · Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin and Eric Carle · Charley Harper's ABCs by Charlie Harper · Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons · Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes · Daughter of a King by Rachel Ann Nunes · Excuse Me! By Lisa Kopelke · Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat · Harry and The Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach · Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson · I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll · I'd Choose You by John Trent · Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback · King of Kings by Susan Hill · Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis and David Soman · Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes · Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney · Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney · Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle · No David! by David Shannon · Olivia by Ian Falconer · Out of the Ocean by Debra Frasier · Snowballs by Lois Ehlert · So Much by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury · Souperchicken by Mary Jane and Herm Auch · The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone · The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle · The King With Six Friends by Jay Williams · The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman · The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza by Philemon Sturges · The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell · The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy · The Red Shoes a Fairy Tale by Gloria Fowler and Sun Young Yoo · The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats · Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel · Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White · Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak · Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits


Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on November 04, 2012:

Karadhya, copying and pasting articles is prohibited on HubPages, and in fact is copyright infringement. But I would be honored if you linked to my article. Please forgive if I have misunderstood your request, but occasionally people copy my articles and this diminishes their value online to me.

karadhya on October 28, 2012:

I love how comprehensive your review of this book is. And I love Karma Wilson! I actually have a monthly "Read & Romp Roundup" on my blog and love to feature picture books with dance or movement themes. Would it be ok if I included this in my October or November roundup? Feel free to stop by from time to time if you have other dance books you would like me to include :)

htodd from United States on October 22, 2011:

This is really great ..Thanks

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