With a short trunk for a nose, the ears of a cow, and the mane, body, and tail of a lion, Bah Koo is an unusual animal looking for his place in the world in this sweet children’s picture book.
Bah Koo not only looks different from other animals, but also has a “strange and mysterious feeling there was something he was meant to do…but just what it was, he did not know.” Ostracized and sad, he leaves his home. He’s “tired and hungry and cold and wet and all the things that make any of us sad when we are alone and far from home” when he stumbles on two children playing in their treehouse. They bring him into their home and take care of him. He charms everyone, including two friends that no one else can see: the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman. His new acquaintances make him once again feel that he has a gift to share. He finds out what that gift is late one night when one of the children’s moans awakens him. Bah Koo runs to the boy’s room and confronts a nightmare; little Bah Koo instantly grows larger and becomes filled with new power and strength. He now knows his mission, has become aware of the Great Creator, and is ready to find his own home. The second chapter of the story, in which Bah Koo visits a Wise Old Owl in search of more answers, is less interesting than the first. Overall, however, Rhodes’ debut is an engaging retelling of the Asian myth of Baku, the Dream Eater. It tells the story in clear language at a child-friendly pace that makes for a good read-aloud. Readers who know Bah Koo’s Asian origins, however, may wonder about the Anglo-looking humans in the color illustrations. That said, the images’ purple mushrooms, surprised squirrels, and decorative hearts give the book a sketchlike, 1970s-era quality.
Although the illustrations may not appeal to everyone, the lovable Bah Koo will likely win over young readers and listeners.