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

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CLARA THE RHINO

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. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Lit with sweetness.

SHARE SOME KINDNESS, BRING SOME LIGHT

Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 29, 2018

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