CCAD alum Richard Cowdrey and "Fiona the Hippo"

It seems everybody is talking about Fiona the hippo. Born in 2017 at the Cincinnati Zoo, Fiona has grown up continuously capturing attention. Now, she even has a book. CCAD alum and New York Times best-selling illustrator of the Marley series, Richard Cowdrey (Illustration, 1981) has taken on Fiona for Fiona the Hippo, released August 2018. 

Written in partnership with the Cincinnati Zoo, Fiona the Hippo tells the story of a prematurely born hippo, not expected to live, overcoming her challenges to become a happy, healthy hippopotamus. Not only did Cowdrey meet Fiona in person, but he used pictures and videos as references for his illustrations. “She is a blast to draw and put different expressions on her,” he notes.


fiona the hippo book cover

 Photos from Richard Cowdrey

Cowdrey, from Cincinnati, a loyal visitor to the Cincinnati Zoo as a child and a Fiona fan after getting daily updates on her from his wife, proposed the book to the zoo who, he reports, was on board immediately. His work with the Marley series gave him some perspective with Fiona. “I had some experience in taking a real animal and transposing them into a children’s book character,” he observes, and credits the discipline learned at CCAD in helping his career.


richard cowdrey headshot

Cowdrey is excited about the book’s publication and its reception so far. The Zoo hosted an event on August 7, 2018, bringing Fiona fans from far and wide. Cowdrey cited this as his favorite book he has done, and he hopes Fiona’s book will help bring families together.