Rhino, Rhino, Sweet Potato

Francine Prose, Author, Matthew S. Armstrong, Illustrator , illus. by Matthew S. Armstrong. HarperCollins $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-008078-5

Think of that axiom about teaching a man to fish—switch rhinos for the guy and sweet potatoes for fish, and the result, unfortunately, breaks no new ground. The hero, a redheaded boy named Roy, not only saves his village of Sweet Potato from marauding rhinos, but spares the misunderstood beasts from being massacred by the angry townspeople. “Now on one side of the river/ The rhinos eat what they've grown./ And nowadays on the other side/ The villagers have their own,” writes Prose (Bullyville ). Audience participation is invited by the catchy verse and two recurring songlike stanzas, one about root vegetables (“Sweet potato January, sweet potato June./ Sweet potato, hear our happy little tune”), the other a “rhino lullaby.” Armstrong (The Chronicles of Narnia Pop-up ) makes a valiant effort to give this material some crackle; his rhino gang, with long knobby snouts, dimwitted eyes and lumpy bodies, is impressively intimidating as miscreants and adorably ugly as Roy's new BFFs. But it's not enough to buoy the preachiness of the premise or the by-the-numbers personality of the protagonist. Ages 4–8. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/11/2009
Release date: 05/01/2009
Genre: Children's
Hardcover - 978-0-06-008079-2
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