Review of Anna & Samia: The True Story of Saving a Black Rhino

Anna & Samia: The True Story of Saving a Black Rhino
by Paul Meisel; illus. by the author
Primary    Farrar    32 pp.
10/19    978-0-374-30577-2    $17.99

When a newborn black rhinoceros is abandoned in a Kenyan rhino sanctuary in 1985, conservationist Anna Merz steps in to rescue and raise the baby she names Samia. Meisel’s heartening account of their relationship — “best friends forever” — is based on a chapter from Merz’s adult book Rhino: At the Brink of Extinction. The narrative focuses on Samia’s early years, as Anna balances her affection for the rhino with her knowledge that Samia will eventually need to survive in the wild on her own. (A recurring refrain is a version of: “One day, thought Anna, you’ll be able to live on your own. But not now.”) Anna provides Samia with food, shelter, and companionship but also trains her to track other animals and find her own food outside the compound, and checks that she is able to communicate with other rhinos. Antics ensue, as the increasingly hefty (and very smart) Samia tries to join Anna in her car and home (and bathtub), once even getting stuck in a dining-room doorway. Their bond lasts beyond Samia’s return to the wild. Meisel’s art clearly transmits human and rhino personalities, and beautifully portrays the vast Kenyan environments with depth and layering of rocks, plants, and animals in the complex landscapes. Two pages of endnotes summarize Merz’s adventurous life and provide facts about black rhinos.

From the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford is a Horn Book reviewer and an associate professor of Science Education at the University of Delaware.

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