Last - Nicola Davies
This is a sad but ultimately hopeful story based on true events around the life of 'Sudan', the last male Northern White Rhino. Told in first person, the rhino remembers his past, full of love, colour and joy, in contrast to the present, in grey captivity, with illustrations coloured to match. The contrast in mood and feeling is powerfully reflected by the changing colours (or lack of them), and miror the rhino's memories and feelings as he recalls life in the wild with his mother before she is killed for her horn and he is captured and put in a zoo.
There is hope at the end - maybe he is not 'Last' after all....he is returned to colour and the wild, and 'others', and we are left hopeful for his future.
I loved the illustrations - bold whether in greys or colour, and with hidden words in the background to many of the illustrations, making you search for words or messages contained within them. Nicola Davies explains in a note that the words are taken from various sources: from advertising slogans to environmental speeches, and the glimpse of words from a variety of languages reinforce the point that there is a deeper and more important message in this book: that of awareness and care for our planet and creatures.
I also liked the recurring appearance of the lady who is watching Sudan in the zoo when the book starts, a green spotted scarf wrapped around her neck. In the last image, returned to the wild, a similar observer, her hair tied up in a green spotted scarf, observes with binoculars...perhaps a message about the need for action: not just watching but doing something...?
Detailed notes and facts about the story and the background to it are included at the end, and make this a powerful book to use in school or with children in any setting, about issues of conservation, extinction, and the power of hope and positive action, and our need to do something to help.
In class, I'll use this in a unit of work on environmental awareness and conservation, looking at it alongside the Iceland Oragutan advert (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdpspllWI2o). We also rewrite McFly's 'Obviously' with environmental lyrics to use as a 'campaign' song. Email or contact me on Twitter if you'd like to know more!
Last is published by Tiny Owl, on Twitter as @TinyOwl_Books)
Nicola Davies is on Twitter as @nicolakidsbooks and at www.nicola-davies.com
Review by Rich Simpson, on Twitter as @richreadalot