I’m going to be completely honest here. Upon examining the cover of ‘The Last Rhino’ by Deborah Stevenson, I was excited to read about a lone rhino. Perhaps he was destined to find a friendship or embark on a journey of making rights out of wrongs in the world.
Within turning a few pages, we had fallen in love with Ayubu and were engrossed in his world. ‘The Last Rhino’ is a fictional story of a brave, young rhino facing many challenges. Although the story is fictional, many of the issues are in fact very real.
Book Review: The Last Rhino
‘The Last Rhino’ is separated into two parts.
During the first part, we meet a young rhino Ayubu, his mother Nthanda and their friend Imari the cattle egret. We learned about the symbiotic relationship between the rhinos and their cherished friend. There was a painful introduction to the practice of poaching. The pair reminisce on the impact the operation has already had on their family unit before tragedy strikes again.
We learned of the loss of Ayubu father and sister before he was born. Nthanda spoke highly of his father describing him as the bravest Rhino is Africa. Soon into the story, Ayubu was forced to leave his mother imprisoned in a poachers hole. During their last moments, Nthanda asked her son to be brave before he had to run for his own life.
The second part of ‘The Last Rhino’ is lighter while still being captivating. Ayubu and Imari’s bond strengthens with the bird’s new role as the rhinos guardian. Ayubu is growing up and he builds a friendship with a young elephant, Raziya.
Built on a solid foundation of kindness and similar sense of humour and fun, the unlikely duo become very good friends.
Together Raziya and Ayubu overcome fig wielding monkeys, a pack of lions and meet their biggest challenge – a poachers trap hole.
With memories of his late mother still fresh, Ayubu stood by his friend when she needed him the most in spite of the dangers that loomed.
What we think of ‘The Last Rhino’
After reading Soaring Soren: When French Bulldogs Fly also written by Deborah Stevenson, I had high aspirations for ‘The Last Rhino’ and I was not disappointed.
‘The Last Rhino’ is brings to light some dark topics in a gentle, informative way. I feel as though a younger early primary reader would perceive the content differently to that of primary school age. There is enough information to have an understanding of the topics such as poaching, the harmonious relationships of animals of different species and dealing with loss.
While the story is fictional, some of the issue of poaching is very real. Stevenson has captured crucial information and presented it in a way that that is gentle yet comprehensive for a young reader.
I was particularly touched by the way Nthanda described how she would be present after her demise. This is something we have been discussing at home with our beloved pet dog reaching his senior years. Reading the same concept in ‘The Last Rhino’ only strengthened the conversations that we have been having over the last few weeks.
‘The Last Rhino’ surprisingly inspired emotive reactions. It is a powerful story of friendship, strength of character and belonging.
Thank you Frog Prince Books for the opportunity to review this amazing book!
Comprehension Play Tray
To further strengthen a section of the book, we set up a taste safe sensory play tray replicating one of the scenes from the story.
Setting up visual representation of the story allowed Miss 2 and Miss 5 to understand the story that does only have minimal illustration (being that it is written for more experienced young readers).
What you need to set up your story tray
- Play Tray (ours is from Kmart)
- 2 Shallow Dishes
- Flour (bake your flour to make it taste safe- learn how here!)
- Rolled Oats
- Blue Food Colouring
- Plastic Tree
- Rhino, Elephant, Monkey and Lion Figurines (ours are Schleich)
How to set up your story tray
To create your scene, cover the base of you play tray with the oats.
Mix some flour and water together to create a runny slurry to your desired consistency. Split it between your two shallow dishes. In one, mix in some food colouring to replicate a watering hole. In the other, mix in some cinnamon to create a (lovely scented) muddy wallow.
Position each of these on either side of the tray. Position your tree and animals and you are ready to play!
To start with I re read chapters 7,8 and 9 before Miss 5 rein-acted her interpretation of the scene in the tray. The monkey began throwing figs from the tree while the lion lurked behind the tree.
Then we opened up conversation of why some animals like to cover themselves in mud and the value it can offer them. Miss 5 then proceed to cover the rhino and elephant in mud to offer them protection from the sun and the bugs.
I then asked Miss 5 what other way rhinos might keep insects away. After a little reminding, she was excited to recall the symbiotic relationship that rhinos and other animals have with birds.
From there the sensory, experimental elements of the play took over. Miss 5 was experimenting with the adhesive quality of the three elements in the tray before mixing them together to do some ‘baking’.
I am really looking forward to revisiting ‘The Lost Rhino’ as time goes by as the girls get older. I feel as though each time they read it, there will be a stand out influence by its context depending on what is happening in our own lives.
Dani D x
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