Book review by Lang Reid
Every so often a reviewer can be presented with a book that just takes his or her fancy. This is one of those. Written by a Danish lady, Marianne Willemse, who has lived in SE Asia for 30 years. "My Mother is a Rhino" (ISBN 974-S542I-0-b) is a true story about an orphaned elephant "adopted" by an Indian rhinoceros.
Marianne Willemse is involved in many animal welfare programs and has a private sanctuary called Love Animal House. It very quickly becomes obvious on reading this book that she does indeed love animals.
It is published in a format to appeal to children. with large print and illustrations on most pages, most of which are drawings. though a few are photographic. This is the style of book that you can sit down and read with children.
The storyline is that of an orphaned baby elephant, but narrated as if by the elephant itself. Being an elephant, it refers to human beings at "two legs" and the nights at "the darkness", all simplistic concepts (but ones that a baby elephant could imagine and ones to which small children could relate).
The baby's mother is killed by poachers, but the baby escapes. Fortunately, the small elephant is rescued by some rangers, fed and taken to an animal shelter. Despite the kindness being shown to the baby animal, it should not be forgotten that this is a baby elephant. This baby cried every night, as she missed her mother. Her keepers had to play music at night to try and soothe her, but she was inconsolable. This was until she met the six year old Indian rhino, and the two unlikely animals bonded. As written in the book, by the baby elephant, "We are both big. We are both grey. Wt both eat vegetables, and we are both lonely."
In the conclusion, author Marianne Willemse writes "A baby elephant needs a mother's milk and guidance for four years. The mother teaches it everything there it to know about being an elephant. No one else can ever do that."
A few years ago I read an internet item called The Rainbow Bridge, which was a real tear-jerker about animal! waiting for their masters at the Rainbow Bridge. a metaphorical bridge over the River Styx. My Mother is a Rhino has similar abilities in getting deep into the emotional levels of caring human beings. Animals can do that, and baby animals, such as elephants can do this even more. So large, and yet so needy.
My Mother is a Rhino is one I felt can be read to young children, in language that they can understand, and at the same time as having the requisite happy ending, it imparts a moral as well. Marianne Willemse is to be congratulated over this book. If you have children up to the age of five years, this is an excellent present. It is even better as one that you read to them yourself. As well as understanding and bonding to the world at large, the children can bond even more with you.