Inspired by the true story of Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino, this powerful picture book will inspire children to think about global conservation and how we can help preserve endangered animals.
Award winning author Nicola Davies has written over sixty books and many of them have dealt with the world of nature or have made difficult subjects accessible for younger readers. In this, her debut as an illustrator, she combines both. Last is a book for our world today, an important reminder of what we are in danger of losing and a rallying cry to join together to do our part to help. Children care about conservation and Last will, I think, resonate with them.
A rhinoceros remembers his life before captivity in the zoo in which he now paces. Before this world of grey there was colour, familiar sights and smells, and his mother. Then his mother is killed by poachers and the young rhino is transported in a cage to a zoo in an unfamiliar and unwelcoming place. He fears he is the last. But he is not alone, there are other animals in the zoo alongside him. Perhaps they are the last ones too. As he longs for home there is someone watching who cares and who may rescue him and enable him to return to a life of colour and to home.
The text and the illustrations together make the reader aware of the contrast between the life of the rhino before and during captivity. The grey bleakness of the city zoo and the animal’s misery depicted on the cover and the first pages are starkly different to the vibrant pages that follow showing his life in his natural habitat. The illustrations of the city incorporate quotes from advertising and environmental speeches translated into different languages. Nicola Davies says her aim was to ‘contrast the bleakness of advertising with inspirational words.’ The story ends with a feeling of hope for the future and the author’s note at the end of the book provides more information about Sudan and a note of encouragement to the reader on how to help further.
Last would be a valuable and important addition to primary school libraries and classrooms prompting discussion and encouraging children to find out more.
Thank you to the publishers, Tiny Owl Books for providing my review copy. Last was published on 22nd September and is available to purchase at all good bookshops and online