Rupert the rhino is a bit put off by Levi the tickbird’s enthusiastic attachment to him.
Harrison mines the symbiotic relationship between real rhinos and tickbirds in her humorous story about anthropomorphic animals at school. Rupert is proper, socially awkward, and self-conscious, while silly Levi, the new kid at school, brims with exuberance and confidence. He tags along with (often literally on) an increasingly mortified Rupert, and the natural world informs the story when Rupert is embarrassed by Levi’s loud enjoyment of ticks he plucks from his body in the cafeteria. “Yummy! Tastes like chicken!” Levi jokes in front of an offended hen and a mortified Rupert, who eventually decides “Levi has got to go.” He tries various means of ridding himself of Levi, whose ever generous and loyal responses to various passive-aggressive moves stymie the rhino. Finally, Rupert directly tells Levi to back off, saying “I find your boisterousness a tad loathsome,” and “Your uncouthness is slightly problematic.” Predictably, but nevertheless satisfyingly so, Rupert ends up missing Levi when the bird, hurt and confused, grants the rhino the space he wants. Throughout, the text’s humor is matched by Harrison’s lively illustrations, which excel in visual characterization and provide funny asides to extend the story. The clothed animals are a stitch, both entirely animal and completely human.
This friendship story sticks out. (Picture book. 3-7)