The Hungry Thing

CJ’s mom climbed down from the attic with an unexpected trove of picture books from her childhood. One of them, The Hungry Thing (1967), is about a hippo-like creature who appears at the gates of a medieval village. I read it to CJ since we both have a thing for hippos. I didn’t expect it to be so timely.


The Hungry Thing is starving. A sign hangs from the chain round his neck, reading “FEED ME.” But when the townspeople asks what he wants to eat, they don’t understand him. “Shmancakes,” says the Hungry Thing (who is evidently Jewish), “tickles,” “feetloaf,” “hookies,” “gollypops.” No one understands his rhymes, except one little boy. CJ got all of them except for the last one: “boop with a smacker” (soup with crackers).

I thought it was just a rhyming book, and maybe that’s all the authors meant it to be. But on the last page, when the Hungry Thing is finally full, he turns his sign around to show the other side.


“CJ,” I said, “what do you think this book is about?”

“He’s hungry,” she said.

“But the townspeople, did you notice? All they asked was what he wanted to eat. No one asked him to leave, even though he looked strange, brought nothing with him, and didn’t speak English.

“That’s exactly how the protesters at the airport think we should be.”




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