Both Rita and her new pet rhinoceros—an escapee from the local zoo—learn that it’s not so easy for a rhino to be a city girl’s pet.
Rita is rightfully annoyed when she requests a pet and Mom and Uncle Eric offer her, respectively, a flea and a tadpole. Off she goes to the zoo, where the rhino gratefully squeezes through his bars when he learns that Rita’s apartment is waterproof. The wry humor continues as tiny Rita leads away the rhino without concern of discovery, as she has tossed her hat and coat over his voluminous mass. The artwork of David Small and Quentin Blake come to mind, as droll characters play out absurd situations against lively backdrops. There is no doubt that the “rhino poop” problem will elicit giggles. Perhaps the funniest scene occurs when Rita leaves the rhino outside her school, “horn stuck firmly in the ground to stop him rolling over.” When asked, “Is that a rhinoceros?” she tells her nearsighted teacher, “That’s my bouncy castle.” Then again, it’s equally funny to see the reactions of her classmates—and the rhino—to that statement. The ending, like the rest of the story, is gentle, satisfying and, of course, funny.
Children’s bookshelves can always use another picture book that combines a clever, well-meaning child with an animal hero and hilarious artwork. (Picture book. 3-8)