cover image The Secret Rhino Society

The Secret Rhino Society

Jonathan E. Jacobs, illus. by Samantha Cotterill. S&S/Wiseman, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5344-3000-6

In debut author Jacobs’s story, Hudson the hippo, Fran the earthworm, and Jean the light bulb have a major thing for rhinos: they regard one at a movie theater, form a society, and erect a ramshackle clubhouse where they gather wearing paper horns. In photographed three-dimensional scenes, drawn and assembled by hand, Cotterill (This Beach Is Loud!) both conveys her protagonists’ giddy enthusiasm and immerses readers in settings where the trio gathers to share and nurture their passion. The impressive theater appears replete with balconies, rows of red seats, and a proscenium stage; the house is packed with diverting textiles. The story reaches beyond a celebration of fandom in its second half, when the group meets a real live rhino named Ivy, a brightly dressed gardener who doesn’t charge, snort, or sharpen her horns. “You are just not what we expected a rhinoceros to be,” a flummoxed Hudson tells her, to which Ivy smartly rejoins: “I’m sorry you’re disappointed.” The sweet wrap-up feels somewhat off-course, involving a new group endeavor, but the story’s point is well made: it’s not up to a member of a group (or species) to conform to others’ expectations. Ages 4–8. [em]Author’s agent: Susan Graham, Einstein Literary Management. Illustrator’s agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Productions. (June) [/em]