This biographical picture book about Anna Merz, the head of the Lewa Wildlife Conservatory in Kenya, describes the bond that developed between her and a baby rhino.
When Anna observes an abandoned baby rhino, she brings it into her home, nursing the growing calf from a bottle and even bringing the animal into her own bed. Naming the calf Samia, Anna begins learning how to communicate with her and teaching her what she would need to know to survive in the wild. She even notices personality traits: Samia is smart and helpful and can be quite silly at times. Meisel’s illustrations explore the bond visually, depicting the growing affection between woman and rhino and the inevitable funny moments a rhino in the home can generate. The interactions between Anna and Samia are charming, but the very occasional inclusion of silent, unnamed, brown-skinned Kenyan men in the illustrations raises uncomfortable questions. The role of the black men in this story set in Kenya is not clear. Are they servants? Are they guides? For the purposes of this story, they are unimportant, existing as background like the many animals speckled throughout the book. The backmatter is similarly unbalanced, giving one paragraph to the conservancy’s work with its Kenyan neighbors and much more information on Merz and rhinos.
Fans of Jane Goodall’s work will appreciate this title that documents a little-known story. (bibliography) (Picture book. 4-8)