This story of an unlikely animal friendship is an unnecessary send-up of the plethora of videotaped accounts of interspecies pals but still has its charms.
Ever since, and possibly before, Horton decided to sit on that egg, the celebration of warm bonds between disparate animals has been a staple of picture-book friendship stories. A “crazy-happy” dog finds himself in a wild-animal preserve, where he discovers intriguing new friends: a pair of zebras, five brightly colored parrots and, finally, the impressively horned Bogart, a square-lipped (white) rhinoceros. Enthusiastic Vinnie wears his doggy heart on his sleeve; Bogart remains impassive, stoic and long-suffering as he endures the attentions of the dog. Cole, impressively versatile as always, here works in a style that calls to mind animated Saturday-morning cartoons: Big gestures, broad expressions, round eyes and bright colors, along with dialogue balloons for irrepressible Vinnie, give each spread a lighthearted energy. Children won’t need—or won’t get—the jokes about fleeting Internet fame (news is news whatever its medium), but they may enjoy the irony in the rosy spin that everyone puts on this animal friendship, and children who enjoy occasional solitude may sigh on poor Bogart’s behalf. In a final satirical wink at the way humans admire and celebrate these sorts of animal connections, Vinnie’s boy and his family adopt not only the rhino, but also the zebras and parrots, to the dismay of their own, same-species, neighbors.
Diverting and comical. (Picture book. 4-7)