Rhinoceros is not sure about his looks and wishes he were someone else, but his friends and one experience leave him feeling better.
“Here comes Rhinoceros. / Beautiful as a mountain. / A tiny bird settles on his back, / gentle as a snowflake.” Rhinoceros is sad because his horn is crooked and wishes he were “free like that snowflake,” in his imagination flying around with different sets of wings and even balloons. His fellow animals tell him they need him to protect them, and when the storm comes, he shelters the tiny bird with his mighty body, leaving him feeling better. The animals, which are lightly anthropomorphized (the meerkat carries a red umbrella), are drawn with great attention to texture on largely blank pages and in earthy colors accentuated in red, giving the illustrations a collagelike and contemporary art feel. However, the elliptical text does not live up to the quality of the artwork, and many readers will find the language disjointed and prose forced (possibly as a result of the translation from German). Moreover, some of the similes will most likely escape the comprehension of younger readers (“Curious as a mountain”?), who will likely also find the storyline—the rhino laughs as the bird is blown off his back before returning off-page—difficult to follow.
An elegant artistic statement, but readers looking for a story on self-esteem will be disappointed. (Picture book. 5-8)