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)