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CLARA THE RHINO

An interesting-enough story, albeit from a very human, colonialist perspective.

A historical picture book about a rhino who traveled the world in the 18th century.

Hirt opens by telling readers that this baby rhino’s story begins around 300 years ago, when there were no planes or buses and most people journeyed only as far as their neighboring town. The baby rhino—later named Clara—lives with her mother in India. When hunters kill her mother (neither hunters nor act is depicted), they give the orphaned rhino to a white merchant and his family, who raise her as a pet until she gets too big for their house. The merchant then gives Clara away to Capt. Douwe van der Meer, a young white mariner, and he sails to Europe with the rhino, correctly predicting that she would be a sensation there. Fame follows Clara as she is exhibited to several people, including kings and queens across Europe. Based on historical accounts of a real rhino’s travels across the world, Hirt’s steady narrative and Fuchs’ bright and detailed illustrations make this tale a cheerful one; indeed, the book puts a downright positive spin on Clara’s tale, as she seems to be smiling during her travels, thus masking any trauma that might have been faced by the real rhino. Moreover, although the tale begins in India, almost all the depicted characters are European and white.

An interesting-enough story, albeit from a very human, colonialist perspective. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4395-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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THE WONKY DONKEY

Hee haw.

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2018

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