Last: The Story of a White Rhino

Tiny Owl. Sept. 2020. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781910328644.
Gr 1-3–Based on the true story of a northern white rhino named Sudan, Davies’s picture book is told from Sudan’s point of view. Taken from Africa in 1975 and brought to the Czech Republic, the rhino shares his memories of the time with his mama in the “old place.” Joyful snapshots of Sudan walking through the flowers and grasses with his mama are mixed in with the horrible day when she collapses. As the only rhino in his new home, Sudan feels like the last of his kind. But another change reminds him that he might not be alone after all. Sudan’s emotional journey takes center stage in this narrative, enhanced by Davies’s watercolor illustrations. Using translated environmental speeches and advertising slogans throughout her cityscapes, Davies contrasts what she calls the “bleakness of advertising” with positive conservation messages. Although this level of symbolism may be lost on younger readers, the purposeful use of color helps readers distinguish between times of hope and despair. The simple, rhythmic language allows the images to do much of the storytelling. As an introduction to environmental protection, endangered species, and poaching, this tale is sure to encourage a lively discussion. Although the author’s note does include some background for readers, the book lacks more robust back matter. Pair with Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of a Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate for a more in-depth discussion on the issues surrounding animals in captivity.
VERDICT A heartfelt purchase for collections that need environmental titles for a younger audience.

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