Book review: Clara: The (Mostly) True Story of the Rhinoceros Who Dazzled Kings, Inspired Artists, and Won the Hearts of Everyone . . . While She Ate Her Way Up and Down a Continent!, by Emily Arnold McCully

McCully, Emily Arnold. Clara: The (Mostly) True Story of the Rhinoceros Who Dazzled Kings, Inspired Artists, and Won the Hearts of Everyone . . . While She Ate Her Way Up and Down a Continent! Schwartz & Wade, 2016. $17.99. 48p. ISBN 978-0-5535-2246-4. Ages 5-8. P9Q9

mccully-claraA rhinoceros is an odd pet, but Captain Van der Meer brought back one-year-old Clara from India in 1741. He showed her off throughout Europe and managed to keep her for 17 years until Clara’s death by raising money for her appearances. Readers share in the travels throughout the continent when the Prussian king gives money for her care, the French king rejects the captain because he won’t donate Clara to his home at Versailles, and Clara inspires artists and hairdressers in Paris. McCully points out in her closing note that this confinement and exhibition can be considered cruel treatment, but it was the only way that people could see a “mythical beast” before the advent of photography and zoos. Elegant ink and watercolor illustrations picture Clara both in lovable youth and in gentle age—still lovable, and endpapers follow the duo’s journeys across land and sea.

Fall 2016 review by Nel Ward.

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