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BOOK REVIEW: Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Leila Rudge

BOOK REVIEW: Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Leila Rudge

Walker Books
September 2017
Hardcover, $24.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Picture Book/Adventure

7/10

Once, there was a small rhinoceros who wanted to see the big world. So she built a boat. And sailed away … 
From the duo behind award-winning picture book No Bears comes a simple yet inspirational tale about challenging the norm, pushing boundaries and being true to oneself.

 

This is a sweet little story with classic and heartwarming illustrations about a rhinoceros who challenges the status quo.

From a young age she looked out at the waves and wondered about the world, and each time she was dismissed by one of the older rhinos.

A mud-wallowing rhinoceros snorted. “But this is the world. We have mud and grass and trees. We have everything a rhinoceros could possibly need.”
“Yes,” said the small rhinoceros. “We do.”
A grass-grazing rhinoceros shook his head. “You’re a rhinoceros. You belong here.”
“Yes,” said the small rhinoceros. “That’s true.”
But still she dreamed. And the river flowed on, and the boats passed by.

Despite the constant insistence by the other rhinos that a rhinoceros is just meant to sleep and graze and wallow in mud, the little rhinoceros continues to dream, and one day she decides to do something about it.

A tree-scratching rhinoceros frowned. “You’re a rhinoceros. You can’t sail a boat.”
“Yes,” said the small rhinoceros. “You’re right.”
A sun-bathing rhinoceros rolled his eyes.
“You’re a rhinoceros. You can’t row. Or steer. Or read a map.”
“Yes,” said the small rhinoceros. “I know.”

She sets off anyway and sees the world, and when she returns home the other rhinos are somewhat dismissive, except for one…

But then a soft voice spoke up.
“Did you get lost?”
“Many times.”
“And was it… wonderful?”
“Oh yes,” said the small rhinoceros. “It was.”
“That’s what I thought,” said the even smaller rhinoceros.

This is a sweet little story about challenging what is taken for granted, blazing your own trail, and not allowing others to silence your dreams. The story alone is not particularly unique but it carries a good message, and the illustrations have a timeless appeal.

The story as a whole would be good for 4-6 year olds, though “rhinoceros” can be quite a hard word for these readers, but perhaps the repetition of the word would help them learn it and have less trouble with it in future stories.

BOOK REVIEW: Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Leila Rudge

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