Rhino in the House tells the story of an environmentalist I’d never before heard of. Anna Merz found her retirement to Kenya took an unexpected turn when she began to worry about the safety of the rhinoceroses around her. They were being poached and becoming more and more endangered. So she set up a rhinoceros refuge. This book is about her relationship with an orphaned baby rhino. She cared for it and eventually released it onto the refuge, but it always stayed close to Anna, returning to visit with her and walk with her.
The pencil illustrations in this book are charming, soft rounded edges on the cartoon style showing the warmth and heart of the story. In the back matter, Daniel Kirk talks about how he was having difficulty with the illustrations until he and his son flew to Kenya and spent a week on the refuge. He took photographs and sketched and interviewed a woman who would have been there at the time period of the book so he could get the illustrations right. Illustrations are a key component of nonfiction picture book, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that the illustrators research just as much as the writers do to create an accurate, accessible book for kids.
I loved the endpapers in this book. The front pages show the sun rising on the savannah. The back pages show the sun setting.
Animal-loving kids will adore this book and it will pair well with other stories about activists who protect wild animals. Look, for example, for Me, Jane; A Boy and a Jaguar; and Shark Lady.
Rhino in the House: The True Story of Saving Samra by Daniel Kirk. Abrams: 2017.