Poetry Box review: John R Lewis’s What Do You Need Little Rhino?

What Do You Need Little Rhino?, John J Lewis, Upstart Press, 2021

John J Lewis is a stop motion animator, writer and director who lives in Christchurch. What Do You Need Little Rhino? is his first picture book and it is one of the best picture books about feelings EVER! My all time FAVOURITE.

John got the idea when his daughter Harriet had a tantrum. He had no idea why she was angry. He discovered that when he gently asked her ‘What do you need little rhino?’ the situation was diffused. So he used this technique as the starting point for a story about a little rhino who is stamping mad. The rhino’s mum and dad keep trying to find out what she needs but the little rhino just doesn’t know. I know the feeling. Sometimes the pile of tantrum or angry or upsetness is so hard to explain. To ask what I need is a cunning and useful diversion. Genius. And I love the ending. So perfect.

John has used real art materials such as watercolours for the oh-so-pink illustrations, and they are simple and rich in feeling – especially the ink splots and splashes. Harriet (now 8) handwrote the dialogue text and deliberately mixed up capital letters and lower case. She also came up with the idea for the end and title pages. Beautiful.

Every home deserves a copy of this book – no matter how old you are. And we might all sometimes need someone nearby saying ever so gently – ‘What do you need little rhino?’ GLORIOUS!

John Lewis is a stop motion animator, writer, and director. He is best known as an animator on the feature film Mary and Max, the TV series Kiri & Lou, and the short film The Story of Percival Pilts which he also co-wrote and co-directed. John lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he spends his days playing with plasticine dinosaurs, riding an electric unicycle, rock climbing, and being a father.

Upstart Press page

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