The Most Famous Rhinoceros

by | Oct 12, 2023 | Book Review, Picture Book

The Most Famous Rhinoceros (cover)

Book Details

The Most Famous Rhinoceros
Diane Hofmeyr, illus. Simona Mulazzani. Burley Gate: Otter-Barry Books, hb. 978 1 9156 5910 1, 2023, £12.99, 32pp.
Picture book, 4-12 years

Another book by Di Hofmeyr inspired by the history of ‘exotic’ animals sent as gifts to Europe, following on from the success of her critically acclaimed Zeraffa Giraffa (illustrated by Jane Ray, Frances Lincoln 2014).

This one has been inspired by Dürer’s famous woodcut of the rhinoceros. This is an imaginative retelling.

Gifted to the King of Portugal, the rather ugly rhinoceros, only so because the story of the single horn had led the young princess to expect a unicorn, was thrust into the pageantry of courtly life. The young princess felt sadness for the ways in which the court’s exotic pets had been removed from their natural habitat so she befriends the rhinoceros. She eventually persuades her father to return him to India, a rather different fate to the historical truth, which is explained in a note at the end.

This is a beautifully told and decoratively illustrated story which provides an introduction to discussion about animal rights, zoos and the broader issues of travel and collection in the 16th century.


Review by Pam Dix