A cowboy and his rhino (yes, rhino!) defy convention in this fresh and funny tale.
Van Doninck and Moser transport readers into the American West as their heroes—silhouetted by the rising sun—ride toward the Double R Ranch hoping to find work and a home. Yet something about this idyllic picture is amiss. Calliope, as the ranch hands invariably note, is different. Unfamiliar with rhinoceroses, everyone mistakes her for a horse, leading to some misplaced expectations. Boyd, however, is an ever-faithful friend, always noting his four-legged pal’s positive qualities. His one-sided view and her different skill set cost them their jobs one by one, until the cattle get loose and Calliope saves the day. Digital illustrations feel handcrafted, and the details offer a tactile sensibility that gives the animals weight and warmth. The characters are also loose and spontaneous, and a warm palette echoes the desert setting. Visuals perfectly match text, and adult readers may find a Sam Elliott lilt inflicting their voices. Phrasing and use of onomatopoeia also contribute to the story’s comedic moments, accentuated by a design that integrates images with text. The silly situation bolsters the themes of kindness, friendship and acceptance, as the characters learn to have a strong belief in each other.
A ten-gallon hat full of fun, with a heartfelt message to boot. (Picture book. 3-7)