Review of The Last Rhino

Reviewed by: Holly Connors, Feathered Quill Book Reviews
Review Date: October 2018

Ayubu (pronounced ah-YOO-boo) is a baby rhino living on the African savanna. Under his mother's careful watch, he romps along the open grasslands and plays with friends at the local watering hole. Life is good for Ayubu, but that is all about to change...

While Ayubu plays in the water, it's not just his mother that keeps an eye on him, but also Imari, a cattle egret who removes the insects and ticks from the rhinos' backs. In exchange, the egret alerts the rhinos to danger that he can spot while flying high above the savannah. Ayubu notices that his mother and Imari are always on the lookout for danger, and he quickly learns that they fear not just lions and other carnivores, but also human poachers.

One evening, while listening to a story about his father and sister (who had been lost to poachers), Ayubu is startled when a herd of springboks come flying by them. "Poachers," screams Imari and they are all instantly on their feet and running for the safety of the brush. A narrow escape from the humans teaches Ayubu to always be on guard but unfortunately, it isn't long before his mother falls victim to the humans' appetite for rhino horns.

The bulk of The Last Rhino follows Ayubu as he grows up without his mother by his side, and shares exploits with his new best friend Raziya, a baby elephant. They go on fun adventures, meet a pair of very goofy monkeys, and even stumble upon a pride of lions. Of course, the presence of poachers is always of concern, and as Ayubu matures, and his horn grows, the danger becomes more pressing. A final showdown, where Ayubu will risk everything to help his dear friend Raziya, brings the story to a final, satisfying ending, and will have children clutching the pages to see what happens...

The Last Rhino is an early-reader chapter book that quickly engages the reader with a fun story. The writing is crisp, the dialogue believable (as long as you are willing to believe that animals talk and play "I Spy"), and the important message about conservation isn't thrust upon the reader but gently becomes a part of the story. The death of Ayubu's mother is handled perfectly, with her falling into a poacher's pit and that is the last we see of her. There are lovely drawings throughout, and on the pages between chapters where there is no text, the publisher has covered the page with a pretty African pattern. Finally, at the back of the book are several informational pages, including a page with proper pronunciation of the African names in the story, fun facts about rhinos, about symbiosis with birds, and what the reader can do to help rhinos. This book is the "total package" for young readers to learn about, and learn to care about, rhinos.

Quill says: The Last Rhino is an excellent book for young readers who will discover a fun story that also teaches a very important lesson about conservation. After reading this book, they will be inspired to help and armed with the information at the back of the book, they'll know how to get started on their quest to save the rhinos.

Reviews of Oy, Elephants!

"Unforgettable!" -- Thanks Amy Lignor of Feathered Quill for this wonderful review! ...

As most kids will agree, visiting grandparents is absolutely awesome! Think about it…you’re talking home cooking, extra treats (that Mom always says ‘no’ to), and so much more. Joel is one of those lucky buggers who is spending his school break with Grandma Gussie and Grandpa Morris at their home in Florida. A place called Delray Retirement Village. Now…there are a few downsides to the visit, like always getting your cheeks pinched; and life can get a little boring when everyone goes to bed so early, but Joel is hoping beyond hope that he will have an adventure.

As soon as Joel arrives, his wonderful grandparents are right there to greet him (and, yes, pinch those cheeks of his). But once the pinching is over with, Joel smiles as they drive to the retirement community to begin their visit. The home cooked meal is awesome, as expected, but just as a bit of boredom is about to arrive, a moving van bigger than any Joel has ever seen pulls up on the cul-de-sac and parks. Out comes two extremely large elephants, moving into one of the houses across the street. There is a massive ‘buzz’ all about the retirement community in regards to the new residents, but Morris and Gussie go right over to introduce themselves and welcome their new neighbors.

The elephants are the Helfand family; Martha and Lou. It turns out that they are retiring here in Florida now that their circus days have come to an end. From water aerobics in the pool to lazing around on the sunny beach, both families spend time together. Other residents of the village are not as nice, like Mrs. Fox and Mr. and Mrs. Bell. They are more than a little annoyed when Mr. Helfand jumps into the pool and causes them to become soaking wet. But when a frightening event occurs and Mr. Helfand’s large trunk is needed, those negative opinions soon change. Although furniture gets broken, and many other humorous things occur, Joel ends up having the adventure of a lifetime.

This fantastic author/illustrator team, who also put together the award-winning title Soaring Soren, have a true gift. The fun plot addresses exactly where elephants go to retire and is based on the fact that circuses were banned from using the incredible animals in shows to improve the elephants’ health and welfare. The illustrations are vibrant, beautifully done, and will inspire ALL artists out there to chase their future dreams. This recipe of great story and brilliant drawings come together to make this book unforgettable. So unforgettable that your own grandchild may just see it and beg you to read it 24/7…at least, that’s what happened in my house. (Oy!)

Quill Says: An incredible read that’s entertaining, exciting, and downright awesome!

"Inventive, engaging and just plain fun to read!" --Thanks Rick Felty, author of the award-winning Tabitha Fink children's book series for this thoughtful review! ...

Oy, Elephants! is a Trunk Full of Fun!

What a wonderful and creative story this is! Oy, Elephants! by Deborah Stevenson is inventive, engaging and just plain fun to read. It tells the story of Joel, a young man going to Florida for his school break. He’s going to be staying with his grandparents and although he loves them dearly, nothing EVER happens at their retirement village! EVER! Little does he know that on THIS trip, a LOT is going to happen and yes, it involves elephants! After a first very uneventful day, some new neighbors move in across the street and the events that unfold set the entire community into a raucous tizzy!

The book is full of energetic, colorful and yet lovely/sensitive illustrations that help take the reader on this wild journey with Joel and his grandparents. I felt the artwork here fit the story perfectly!

The grownups in Oy, Elephants! learn a lot about having fun and being more carefree as they interact with the new neighbors. I also love how Joel comes to a deeper appreciation of his grandparents after their “adventure.” In many ways, at its core this book is about family.

In addition I want to tip my hat to the author for such a clever story idea. I myself have been aware of the fight to protect elephants from often cruel lives in circuses as well as the recent agreement by some circuses to stop using the animals. This story is a kind of “what if” resulting from the real world liberation of elephants. And while not a story about the plight of circus elephants, it still shines a light on that real life story. I love that about this book.

You and your kids will love Oy, Elephants! and I highly recommend it.

Reviews of Soaring Soren

Based on a beloved dog’s true story, this debut picture book celebrates hard work and determination. ... A canine tale offers an exuberant reminder that winners come in all shapes and sizes (and should never listen to naysayers).   --Kirkus Reviews

Expressive cartoon color illustrations bring Soren the French Bulldog's amazing and inspiring story to life, bringing joy and inspiration to young readers everywhere. --Midwest Book Review

Soren is an adorable French Bulldog who is on a mission - to prove that dreams can come true, especially if you work hard to obtain them. And he wants to take your child along with him on his adventure. ... Soaring Soren helps teach children that with a little hard work, if they can dream it, they can achieve it. A wonderful message and a delightful book.  --Feathered Quill Book Review

Deborah Stevenson's children's animal book, Soaring Soren: When French Bulldogs Fly, is an inspirational and exciting true life story that shows how even seemingly insurmountable odds can be overcome, if you believe in yourself. What a marvelous way to teach children to have confidence in their abilities!  --Readers' Favorite Book Review

FULL REVIEWS

KIRKUS REVIEW 5/5/2017 OF SOARING SOREN

Based on a beloved dog’s true story, this debut picture book celebrates hard work and determination.

Originally from Denmark, Soren the French bulldog is adopted by a kind American woman named Deb. Soren dreams about becoming a show dog; unfortunately, he grows too large to compete in his category. Then one day, Deb notices he jumps quite high, so she thinks he can enter agility contests instead. To begin training, Deb takes Soren to a special park with planks, tunnels, jumps, and weave poles. After months of practice, Soren and Deb attend agility trials, where a couple of rude folks scoff that a Frenchie can never prevail because of his large head and short legs. Undeterred by these judgmental individuals, Soren continues to prepare, even running through tricky weave poles, which is the most difficult maneuver for him. With much effort and an indomitable spirit, Soren eventually becomes the first French bulldog to ever win a Master Agility Championship. Told from Soren’s point of view, the story features kindly Deb with “wild, curly hair” as the main human character and effectively emphasizes Soren’s devotion to her. Playful and often humorous, Soren’s voice should appeal to a wide array of primary school kids (Stevenson’s work is aimed at ages 5 to 8). In one amusing part, the bulldog’s excitement wreaks havoc with his tummy: “Deb’s eyes got wide and she blurted out, ‘Uh oh. Soren, noooo!’ But before I could stop it…blarrgh! I threw up—right on Deb!” Spicer’s (Sashi and the Puppy Mill Girl, 2016, etc.) bold color illustrations are eye-catching and complement the exultant message; for example, gleeful Soren flies in the volume’s margins with winged pigs because critics said a Frenchie would claim victory “when pigs fly.” (The small human cast, however, lacks diversity.) Reminiscent of a cute Disney character, Soren has huge adorable, expressive eyes, lending a classic feel. A compelling close-up of bug-eyed Soren as he makes the triumphant jump takes up two pages—requiring the book to be turned for optimal viewing—and adds vivid excitement to a jubilant climax.

A canine tale offers an exuberant reminder that winners come in all shapes and sizes (and should never listen to naysayers).  

--Kirkus Reviews

MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW 3/17/2017 OF SOARING SOREN 

Soaring Soren: When French Bulldogs Fly
Deborah Stevenson, author
Morgan Spicer, [illustrator]
Aperture Press LLC
201 Washington Street, Suite #533, Reading, PA 19601
9780997302059 $14.95 www.aperturepress.net

"Soaring Soren: When French Bulldogs Fly" is the unlikely but inspiring story of the author's French bulldog, Soren, and his dauntless quest to become an agility champion despite his breed and handicaps. Symbolic of the determination and inspiration of Soren, little flying pigs carrying green ribbon banners decorate and frame initial and intermittent page illustrations. Written from the dog's viewpoint, "Soaring Soren" tells the amazing story of a French Bulldog born in Denmark who flies to the United States to be adopted by his American owner, Deb, a kind lady with lots of curly hair. Soren was born and bred to be a show dog, so he expected the training that would be an integral part of that. However, Soren also grew and grew, until he had grown bigger than a French Bulldog for showing was allowed to be. This was a sad disappointment to Soren, but there was nothing he could do about his growing, so he accepted it. Deb noticed that Soren could run fast and jump high, so she wondered if Soren could make a great agility dog, not something French Bulldogs are bred or built for. Soren tried extra hard to show Deb that he could be a great agility dog, even if his fast running and high jumping ended up making him sick to his tummy. With Soren's enthusiastic acceptance, Deb began Soren's agility training, using agility field obstacles such as the A-Frame, jumps, weave poles, the teeter, and the tunnel, Soren's favorite. Soren worked hard with his owner as a team, receiving cheese treats for rewards when he did well on the agility obstacle course. then Soren attended his first agility trial course and did very well. Deb began to think that Soren could become an agility champion, even though no French Bulldog had ever achieved such a thing. With their big heads, short legs, and heavy bodies, French Bulldogs just weren't built for agility achievement, people thought. But Soren thought differently. He knew he could be a champion one day. Soren practiced hard with Deb, hoping to win an agility championship to give her. What an exciting event day! Soren concentrated and worked very hard, making no mistakes on all the obstacles. Soren won a purple ribbon! Plus his owner gave him a new collar with little flying pigs on it! At a fabulous party afterwards for all participating show dogs and owners, Soren was so happy. He loved his agility training work, but he loved his owner, Deb even more. Finally, Soren knew that "if you work hard and believe in yourself and your dreams, you can do just about anything. And if you have someone you love who believes in you too, that's even better." Expressive cartoon color illustrations bring Soren the French Bulldog's amazing and inspiring story to life, bringing joy and inspiration to young readers everywhere.

Feathered Quill Review August 2017 of Soaring Soren

Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: August 2017

Soren is an adorable French Bulldog who is on a mission - to prove that dreams can come true, especially if you work hard to obtain them. And he wants to take your child along with him on his adventure.

Soaring Soren is based on the true story of Soren, a little French Bulldog who traveled all the way from Denmark to the United States to become a top-notch show dog for his owner Deborah Stevenson. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans for Soren because as he grew, he grew a little too much. He was too tall for the strict showing standards required of French Bulldogs. What would Soren do? There was no doubt that Deb truly loved and adored him so maybe Soren was destined to simply become a lap dog.

One day while Deb was outside watching her beloved dog play, she noticed that Soren loved to run fast and jump quite high. Hmmm....maybe Soren would make a good agility dog. But everybody knows that French Bulldogs are too slow, too heavy, their legs are too short, and, well, they just can't do agility. But they didn't know Soren. He adored Deb and would do anything for her. He also loved the fast-paced training required for agility, and soon he loved participating in agility trials too. Soren was about to change the minds of those who doubted him but would he be good enough to earn an agility championship? Dreams do come true if you work hard and never give up...

Soaring Soren is a totally delightful story of one dog's efforts to make his, and his owner's, dream come true. With a positive message of working hard, and never giving up, children will be inspired to reach for their dreams too. The illustrations are quite nice, and fit well with the happy mood set by the story. In addition, with Soren's happy face and big, brown eyes appearing in almost every drawing, the artwork really brings out the personality of Soren. At 37 pages, there's a bit more text than restless 4 or 5 year olds may sit through, so for the youngest readers, you may need to break the story up into 2 or 3 bedtime readings.

Quill says: Soaring Soren helps teach children that with a little hard work, if they can dream it, they can achieve it. A wonderful message and a delightful book.

 

Readers' Favorite Book Review, January 2017

Reviewed by Jack Magnus

Soaring Soren: When French Bulldogs Fly is a children's animal book, based on a true story, written by Deborah Stevenson and illustrated by Morgan Spicer. Deb was there at the airport waiting for the small French Bulldog puppy who had traveled all the way to her from Denmark. She greeted him with hugs and french fries, and he instantly fell in love with her. Deb explained that he was going to train to be a show dog, and she helped him learn the correct posture and behavior that would be expected. All too soon, however, Deb realized that her pup was just too big to be a show dog. Watching him jump, play and cavort outdoors had her thinking what many thought was improbable -- her French Bulldog could become an Agility Champion. The two of them worked hard to get Soren to master the jumps, A-Frames and weave poles that were used in agility trials. Soren and Deb heard others at the first trial say that French Bulldogs just couldn't do agility, no less be a champ, but they knew better. Soren had what it takes to win.

Deborah Stevenson's children's animal book, Soaring Soren: When French Bulldogs Fly, is an inspirational and exciting true life story that shows how even seemingly insurmountable odds can be overcome, if you believe in yourself. What a marvelous way to teach children to have confidence in their abilities! Soren's story is beautifully told, from that first plane trip through to the celebration after Soren wins the honor of being the first ever French Bulldog AKC Master Agility Champion. Morgan Spicer's illustrations are masterful and bring this remarkable story to life. Each panel is colorful and shows Soren as he soars over jump bars and successfully navigates the dreaded weave poles. Stevenson also provides a link to Soren's site, which has photographs and a video showing Soren in action. I loved this book! Soaring Soren: When French Bulldogs Fly is most highly recommended for children and animal lovers of all ages.