The Secret Rhino Society

S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. May 2020. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534430006.
PreS-Gr 2–A hippo, a worm, and a sentient light bulb grapple with upended expectations in this quirky tale. Each member of the unique trio wishes to be a rhinoceros—based on their own assumptions of that animal’s virtues—and they are all surprised when they meet a real rhino who behaves unlike their imagined object of admiration. Jacobs’s narrative of friendship and expectations feels both specific and disjointed at the same time, with offbeat details standing in for a thin plot. The book’s charm derives primarily from Cotterill’s crafty illustrations: hand-drawn figures photographed within cozy, 3-D sets. These detailed dioramas, replete with floral flourishes and rhino patterns, attract the reader’s eye but often prove more inviting than the characters being illustrated.
VERDICT Ultimately, the story lacks heft and coherence, delivering pleasant moments without enough substance or humor to justify joining the club.

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