Book Review: Once Upon A Small Rhinoceros, by Meg McKinlay

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_once_upon_a_small_rhinocerosThis 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
ISBN 9781925126709

Book Review: A Child of Books, by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_child_of_booksWhat a remarkable piece of creativity this book is. I have admired Oliver Jeffers since I read the Crayons books [The Day the Crayons Quit, and The Day the Crayons Came Home], and think his work is wonderful.

However I could NEVER have imagined something like this. It’s a picture book, but it’s not. It’s maybe for kids, but really not. It’s really for adults, but also for kids…. The storyline is deceptively simple, and will appeal to all those who know just how important stories are in our lives, from birth to our final destination whatever that is.

But it’s in the actualisation of the words of the story on each page that the magic lies. Every two page spread is illustrated – it’s a picture book, after all – but beside, over, under, around the child of books, part of every page is composed of text from wonderful stories. Gulliver’s Travels, the Swiss Family Robinson, Peter Pan and Wendy, fairy tales and many more are woven, drawn, imagined into amazing backgrounds. It’s a delight. It’s also nearly impossible (for my eyes, any way) to read the background illustrations, but I think it’s the effect of these illustrations which is so wonderful. They support the text of the storyline brilliantly and I really, really hope that Jeffers and Winston create other books together.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to buy this book, borrow it from your library, give it to your teenagers and your granny – it’s indeed a book for all ages.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

A Child of Books
by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406358315