CLARA by Emily Arnold McCully

CLARA

The (Mostly) True Story of the Rhinoceros Who Dazzled Kings, Inspired Artists, and Won the Hearts of Everyone...While She Ate Her Way Up and Down a Continent!
Age Range: 5 - 8
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KIRKUS REVIEW

An orphaned rhinoceros, acquired by a Dutch sea captain in India, captivates 18th-century Europe during her 17-year continental tour.

Capt. Van der Meer orders Clara hoisted onto his ship for the voyage around the Cape of Good Hope. The rhino eats hay, drinks water, and “adore[s] oranges and beer.” Fish oil is used to lubricate her hide. Once home in Holland, the captain plots logistics for Clara’s “grand tour.” McCully portrays a developing bond between Clara and her keeper, who “looked deep into his rhino’s eyes and felt calm. Clara might have been homely on the outside, but she had a beautiful soul.” The Prussian king, Frederick the Great, helps fund the tour, but Clara’s 5,000-pound appetite proves financially challenging. Louis XV dismisses the captain from Versailles when Clara’s not proffered as a gift for his menagerie. Paris is mad for Clara, though: she inspires composers, poets, sculptors, painters, scientists, and even hairdressers and dressmakers, as styles à la rhinocéros become the rage. McCully’s delicately inked watercolors span double-page spreads for expansive scenes, including one for Clara’s death. Smaller spots portray vignettes, as when Clara sprouts, then loses her horn. Oranges—so enticing to Clara—recur as a motif throughout. Endpapers map the sea and land journeys, and McCully’s note provides historical context for what would be considered an inhumane display today.

For all its problematic nature, a sweetly portrayed relationship. (author’s note, resources) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 7th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-553-52246-4
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2016




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