An old tale with a new facade.
In this unusual version of the familiar tale, Goldilocks, in fact, isn’t (she has beaded black hair that sticks straight up), and the bears are rhinos—perhaps because Rankin is South African, and South Africa does have rhinos but no bears. Her anthropomorphic beasts walk upright and yet reinforce traditional gender stereotypes: Papa is gentle with his kid but angry at the intruder; Mama is surprised and fearful; Baby whines loudly, emphasized by the one-word-per-line text that increases in font and frequency of exclamation points as he frets. Had Rankin capitalized on the differences between rhinos and bears (horns vs. no horns; herbivores vs. omnivores; thick skin vs. hairy pelt) to alter the story, this could have been a clever retelling. Instead, the beautiful, detailed illustrations, which have the look of ink and watercolor, far outshine the story, offering a lively picture of the rhinos’ home, with plenty of white space to inspire readers’ imaginations. Most troubling, though, is brown-skinned Goldilocks’ beaded hair; if this is an attempt to cast her as a child of color—thereby spinning it as a multicultural story—even that falls short since beaded hair goes down, not up, making Goldilocks’ hair quite a curiosity.
A visually pleasing revision of a story that will make readers long for the bears. (Picture book. 4-8)