This whimsical book brought a smile to my face with its positivity, determination and adventure of the small rhinoceros heading out to explore the world.
We meet a young rhinoceros who is delightfully personified in the illustrations but still remains a rhinoceros (thankfully she is not given some cutesy name! – this book never becomes cheesy or juvenile). And did I mention she is a girl? – great to see girls represented in powerful roles in picture books.
The young rhinoceros lives with the other rhinos next to a river which bring the sights and smells of faraway lands to her rhinoceros world filled with mud, grass and trees. The other rhinoceroses tell her that this is all she needs, that she is crazy to dream of anything more.
The young rhinoceros smiles and agrees as she continues to collect the supplies she needs to go adventuring – she never loses her dream. We watch her build a boat before setting sail down the river and over the ocean. She sails through the day and after each night, through summer and winter. We see the rhinoceros exploring the world – everywhere is represented (so much to discuss in the illustrations!).
Eventually she has seen more things than a rhinoceros could ever imagine and returns home where the rhinoceroses are waiting. The rhinoceroses continue to show their lack understanding of her adventures but another little voice speaks up to ask if it was wonderful. The young rhinoceros becomes a role model of the possibility of the next little rhinoceros being an explorer too.
A tale beautifully told through dialogue and poetic language. All ages can follow along because the illustrations clearly tell the story through delightful sketches and watercolours. It is one of the true treasures of children’s picture books – all ages will find something to love in this book, including the adult reader! This is a story which will be a fantastic addition to any bedtime collection (especially for anyone who likes to dream big and be an explorer in the world).
Reviewed by Sara Croft
Once Upon A Small Rhinoceros
by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Leila Rudge
Published by Walker Books