Below is a non-rhyming 800 word version of the story.
Please ignore the words on the pictures as they have not yet been swapped out.
Henry was a hippo who dreamt that he would fly.
But his dream wasn't just the, "Wouldn't it be nice...", kind of dream that others had.
There were lots of hippos out there who thought, "Wouldn't it be nice to walk on the moon."
or, "I'd love to be a professional ballerina." but none of those hippos built rocket-ships
or even practiced their pirouettes.
Henry's mother was fine when he said he wanted to fly.
She was terrified when her son began trying to fly.
Henry was picked on by the other hippos
because he did something none of the others ever dared.
Henry worked to make his dream come true.
Henry would spend hours building contraptions to help him soar over the river.
He would climb a large tree, and if you have ever witnessed a hippo climbing a tree,
then you know, that alone is no small task.
He would scoot out onto a sturdy branch and visualize.
Time after time, Henry would crash into the water, flapping his arms, desperately trying to "pull-up",
but hippos who jump from trees tend to follow a very straight path to the ground.
Word of Henry's "dives" spread quickly across Africa. Animals would gather
just to watch him fall through the branches and plummet into the muddy water below,
but not everyone came to laugh at the "crazy hippo".
The bees saw the good in Henry, and they quietly cheered him on from the shadows.
Now bees were some of nature's greatest engineers. They also had some of the most close knit families on the planet.
They lived their entire lives working to keep one-another safe, happy, and healthy.
They didn't understand how Henry's swarm could be so cruel, or why the other hippos wouldn't help.
The bees saw past the belly-flops and the explosions to Henry's creativity, his ability to build,
and his outstanding work ethic. The bees respected Henry as special,
when the other hippos could only see failure.
To understand the rarity of what happened next, you must know that bees have been around
for millions of years, and in that time, they have been squished by a great many things,
from dinosaur feet to windshields.
Over millions and millions of generations bees have been programmed to only trust other bees.
Sometimes though, when you know someone has a good heart,
it's easy to see that hippo as family,
and it's hard to watch family suffer.
It took one bee, watching Henry cry alone in his cave to shake off
millions of years of "programming".
That one bee broke the oldest, most strictly followed rule of bee society...
He gave Henry a hug.
As you can imagine,Henry was a little confused.
Was he being stung by a bee with a defective stinger?
He was more confused when the bee started talking.
"I shouldn't have done that. I'm gonna get squished."
The bee's small voice had been amplified by the quiet of the cave.
Henry glanced around the room.
"What do you mean?"
The bee froze, then looked around the room as well,
"You understand me?", he asked.
Henry nodded with his eyes wide, shocked that he was talking to a bumble.
The two had a long conversation, and when the bee was almost positive
that Henry had no intentions of squishing his entire family,
he invited the hippo home. When Henry was thirty-two percent sure that he wasn't
going to be stung by a bunch of bees, he accepted the invitation.
The bees were nervous at first. Hippos all look the same to bees.
Once they realized that it was Henry, they welcomed him with open arms.
He swore to protect the hive, and the queen declared Henry an honorary bumblepotamus.
Henry was trained in the ways of the bumble.
He was happy to defend the hive and proud of his bumble uniform,
but the wings were not quite strong enough
to lift a four thousand pound bee. To take off, Henry would need a little help.
For weeks, while the bees were out collecting nectar in the fields,
they were also secretly gathering spider-silk from old webs
and breaking an old rule.
They were talking to some very large birds.
When the bees had collected enough silk to construct ropes, they set their plan into action.
Aided by the largest gathering of eagles anyone had ever seen,
Henry finally realized his dream. No amount of laughter could have pried the smile
off the hippo's giant face, but not because he had flown.
Henry realized something far more important.
He was loved by his adopted family.
Now don't think even for a minute that one flight was enough to satisfy Henry's need to fly.
That taste of freedom only made Henry work harder,
and with the help of a few hundred of nature's greatest engineers,
Henry modified his uniform.
Just a thought for the cover...