Book Review Series: Rhino Trouble
Picture books are among my favorite books, so I was delighted when Spunky suggested I read Cedar Fort’s Rhino Trouble for Exponent’s book review series. I was even more delighted when I realized it was written by an old friend of mine, Grant Olsen. He is a truly good person, and that goodness shines bright here. The story itself was inspired by some village children Grant met while traveling through a Nepal jungle, and because of that/because of them, he is donating every penny he would otherwise make from Rhino Trouble to a nonprofit called The Umbrella Foundation, which helps vulnerable children in Nepal get housing and education.
Rhino Trouble begins with a young child explaining that his village is in trouble, because the rhinos come and eat all of their crops. Soon after, the boy’s father gives him and his younger brother sticks, and asks them to protect the potatoes. The child is nervous, because he and his brother are small, and the rhinos are big. The father is encouraging. He says, “You’re stronger than you think,” and tells them, “This is your chance to help the village.”
The boys try and fail.
The father responds with kindness. “I know you did your best.” He asks them to try again, this time to protect the radishes. He uses the word, “Please.”
The boys try, and fail again.
The father responds with the same kindness, and stretches them to remember their own strength. It isn’t in their sticks or child size muscles. It is in their form of play, their cleverness, their intelligence, their courage, and their words. With this memory, the boys set out to protect the crops one more time.
And they succeed.
Throughout it all, there are also bright, funny, whimsical words and drawings, talking, singing, and dancing rhinos, and the cutest little facial expressions on the children. They gave me really good, genuine smiles. The illustrator, Mike Carpenter, did a fantastic job.
I also loved the story’s premise, that children can be given great responsibility and ownership to help their community, in part by being themselves. There is power in play and creativity. It reminded me of another book I love, called The Paper Bag Princess, that my two year old daughter affectionately calls the “princess book.” There too, the protagonist is someone who is normally thought to be vulnerable and in need of protection, who instead uses her cleverness and intelligence to protect another.
I am thankful my daughter has such strong examples in story books, and plan on reading her Rhino Trouble with a few slight alterations. When the main character speaks of his “brother,” I will change it to his “sister.” When the father speaks of his “sons,” I will change it to his “children.” I want my daughter to see herself there.
Part of me believes the phrase “you can’t be what you can’t see.” Another part of me knows that young (and old) girls become what isn’t there to be seen all of the time, because they’ve learned to see themselves in male protagonists. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish they didn’t have to.
Thank you for this beautiful, inspiring book, Grant and Mike! It deserves at least three cheers!
This is a part of the Exponent Book Review Series and Cyber Monday Giveaway. By making a thoughtful comment on this post, subscribing to the Exponent, or making a donation to Exponent II by sending a PayPal donation to firstname.lastname@example.org, you will be entered into a drawing to win one of many books being reviewed! Check the intro post for information and terms. Entries accepted until the 5th of December 2015.