When Reading Rainbow contacted me and asked if I would be willing to review The Rhino Who Swallowed A Storm, written by LeVar Burton & Susan Schaefer Bernardo and illustrated by Courtenay Fletcher, I was thrilled. I’m always looking for new children’s books, and partnering with Reading Rainbow is such a wonderful opportunity. When the book arrived, I showed my class the cover, and they were immediately intrigued. I read the title, and the questions started pouring out of them: “How can a rhino swallow a whole storm?” “What is this book about?” “Look at that rhino’s face!”
The official summary of the book:
When little Mica Mouse is scared by thunder booming outside her cozy home, Papa Mouse reaches for just the right story to comfort her. Hugging her close, he begins to read The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm. In this poetic book-within-a-book, a happy little rhinoceros is overwhelmed by a storm that sweeps away everything he loves. Swallowing the storm just makes him feel worse, so Rhino sets off on a whimsical journey toward healing. Along the way, he meets many friends, including a kind spider, a brave kangaroo, a wise tortoise, and an uplifting whale. With their help, Rhino lets go of the storm inside and learns to see the light in a world turned gray. Mica Mouse is soothed by the story and Papa’s gentle reminder that even though bad things sometimes happen, the world is full of people who care.
I read this book to my primary class – all boys of ages 5 and 6. What amazed me was how instantly connected they were to the story within a story. They loved that Papa Mouse wanted to comfort Mica by reading her a book. Interestingly, they became caught up within Rhino’s story and only remembered that this was the story Papa Mouse was reading when they noticed the incredible illustrations on several pages that included Papa’s fingers holding a book. My students wanted to make comments after each page, as they were drawing comparisons to how Rhino’s friends helped him through his tough times to their own lives.
The story is so well-crafted, and the poetic verse of each of Rhino’s friends provides an additional layer of beauty to the story. Fletcher’s illustrations captivated my students! I watched their faces while they explored the pages of the book and noticed their expressions mirrored the colors and scenes on each page. At the end of the book, there are discussion points/questions that led us to some revelations about ourselves, as we were able to compare our own experiences to those of Mica and Rhino.
What I love most about this book is that we are comforted knowing it’s okay to have feelings of fear, anger, or sadness… but that we don’t have to face them alone. Through the wonderful advice of Rhino’s friends, we learn multiple methods of coping: asking a friend for help, singing a song… and that even a good cry can help relieve the “storm” inside of ourselves.
Thank you to Reading Rainbow and LeVar Burton for sending us a copy of your book to review. It has become an instant favorite, and my class asks to read it again and again. We can’t wait to share it with the rest of the classes at our school, as well as all our friends in our Team Baldwin network!
My students wanted to share their thoughts about what they liked most:
RS: “I liked when Papa Mouse made Mica Mouse feel better by telling her a story. When I am upset, I like to ask my mom to help me.”
ZR: “I like the illustrations in the book. My favorite part was when the rhino swallowed the storm, because I really like the dark colors. This picture is what I feel when I get upset.”
BC: “My favorite part of the book is when Rhino’s friends helped him out of the big, black hole. That’s what it feels like when I am sad and my friends help me.”
NS: “I loved when the whale told Rhino good things. My mom does that to help me be happy.”