Review: LeVar Burton’s “A Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm”

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Disclaimer: Reading Rainbow, publisher of The Rhino Who Swallowed the Storm, provided GHF with a complimentary copy of LeVar Burton’s book. This did not affect our review. Read below to see how you could win a copy of LeVar Burton’s new book!


RWSS_front webBig, scary events can stay with kids long after adults have emotionally moved on. How do we help our children, with their strong emotions and developing coping skills, learn how to let out the pain and open themselves up for healing?

LeVar Burton, co-founder and beloved host of Reading Rainbow, addresses this issue in his charming book, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, co-written by Susan Schaefer Bernardo. A story within a story, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm introduces us to young Mica Mouse, who becomes frightened when a storm crashes outside her home, bringing back memories of a hurricane which destroyed her home a year before.

Papa Mouse knows just how to make Mica feel better. He begins reading a story about another animal who experienced a scary storm: Little Rhinoceros.

And thus begins the story of Little Rhinoceros, whose “world was delightful/and chock full of magic—/until out of the blue, the magic turned tragic.” A storm rages through his beautiful world and “tore it apart,/and took away everything/dear to his heart.” Little Rhinoceros’ reacts by swallowing the storm, keeping it bottled up inside him, until he discovers that other animals want to help him feel better and get rid of the storm turning his world grey and lonely. With gentle encouragement from a little spider, a kangaroo “hero,” bees, a wise tortoise, and a joyful whale, Rhino begins his journey of healing by letting go of the storm and bringing color and love back into his world.

Once Rhino’s story ends, we return to the cozy home of Papa and Mica Mouse, where Papa reminds Mica that“You’re never really alone when bad things happen.” As the sun shines through the window, Papa and Mica cuddle, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm sitting on Papa’s lap.

But for readers, the book doesn’t end there. Turn the page to discover questions to dig deeper into the story, helping children connect what they just read with their own experiences. The questions are open-ended, encouraging discussion and sharing. Imagine sitting by your little one on a big comfy chair, sharing this story and gently discussing feelings on a stormy day.

No matter how heartwarming a story, the illustrations can make or break the experience of reading together. Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher Courtenay Fletcher does a lovely job of creating two visual experiences within one book: that of the Mouses’ home and of the story of Rhino. Warm browns and neutrals with pops of color pervade the Mouses’ home, while Little Rhino’s story moves from high contrast to dull greys and back to bright colors, following Rhino’s emotional journey. The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm is a visual delight.

Though the age range for the book is five- to seven-year-olds, my eight- and twelve-year-old boys both enjoyed reading the book. They took particular delight in cuddling up and having it read to them, and willingly answered the questions at the back. We pointed out to each other what we noticed about the illustrations and discussed scary events that we hadn’t talked about for a long time. We had a charmed moment together on our sofa with this book.

Tragedies happen to good people, and we all need to know that we are not alone. People are ready to help us. People we know, and many we don’t. The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm teaches us and our kids that, while we may experience frightening events, we have people who will help us through.

Title: The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm
SRP: $17.95
ISBN: 978-0990539506
Age Range: 5-7

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Book Giveaway!

As part of GHF’s 10th anniverary and to celebrate the launch of LeVar Burton’s book, GHF is giving away one copy of The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm. Just leave a comment on our Facebook post about this book or a fond memory of  Reading Rainbow by October 21, 2014. We will choose a winner at random from all commentators. We will contact you through Facebook. Good luck and happy reading!

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