cover image Jubela


Cristina Kessler. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81895-0

Mali-based writer and photographer Kessler takes the bare bones of a true storyDbased on an occurrence in Swaziland, as she explains in an afterwordDand fleshes them out beautifully. Orphaned after a poacher shoots his mother, a baby rhino must survive alone on the African savanna until an older female adopts him. From lyrical descriptions (""sunlight surrendered to darkness"") to vigorous passages (""his clumsy feet kicked stones aside as he thrashed through the thicket""), Kessler's prose effectively distills the drama of the events for a picture book audience and wins sympathy for the baby's plight without anthropomorphizing the animals involved. Stammen (If You Were Born a Kitten) bathes her spare but expansive pastel vistas in luxurious light, from the intense African noon that bleaches the color from the landscape, to the long, slanting rays of twilight and the purple and orange glory of a sunset. Her effective use of silhouetted imagesDthe baby rhino alone in the darkness, for instanceDunderscores the poignancy of his situation. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)