It’s my great honor to share my review of The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, the first children’s book written by Reading Rainbow‘s LeVar Burton, and co-written by Susan Schaefer Bernardo, with illustrations by Courtenay Fletcher. This beautifully-illustrated 32-page hardcover book will be available for purchase beginning October 7, 2014.
I must confess when I first learned the title of the book, I assumed it was a story to help children face their fears about bad weather. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm explores topics such as emotional pain, grief, personal loss, loneliness, friendship, and healing. Much of the book is written in rhyming form, which kids will enjoy reading (my 7.5 year old daughter and I certainly did!)
This book-within-a-book opens with little Mica Mouse scared by a thunderstorm raging outside her home. Papa Mouse offers to soothe Mica by reading The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, a story he knows will make her feel better…
In the story, a flood tears through Rhino’s valley, leaving chaos in its wake. Without a thought to the personal cost, and in response to the anger and pain he’s feeling, Rhino swallows the storm only to find it worsens inside him, sending him spinning out of control and into a deep hole. This is an inspired metaphor for the natural feelings of emotional pain, grief, personal loss, and loneliness we all experience in a crisis. Children and adults alike can relate to Rhino in the book.
Dear Rhino is rescued from his pit by new friends, including a kind spider and a brave kangaroo. Still unable to find his way because the storm continues to rage inside him, more helpers enter Rhino’s life — a buzzing bee, a wise tortoise, and an uplifting whale. With his friends’ help, Rhino releases the storm and finds hope, healing, strength, joy, and love.
This part of the book elegantly reminds me of one of my favorite quotations:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” — Mister Rogers
The book closes with Rhino resting safely and peacefully with his new friends, and Mica Mouse comforted by the knowledge that “You’re never really alone when bad things happen. There are family and friends, even people we don’t know, who are always there to help us through tough times.”
I highly recommend The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm. The book is richly illustrated, beautifully written, fun to read, and a wonderful tool to help children (and their adults) work through a crisis.