Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?
But if it's such a great pet, why is it being sold cheap?
Weird, albeit cute, book. It starts with a poem and then continues into a list of various things you can do with a rhinoceros around your house. "He can open beer cans for your uncle." "It is very comfortable when you sit on his lap, but not too comfortable when he sits on your lap." Shel Silverstein's outrageous drawings are hilarious. "He is careful about not leaving rhinoceros tracks around the house," is accompanied by a drawing of shoe prints that continue past the turning of the page to show that they are being left by the rhinoceros, somehow balancing upside down, with a shoe on his horn. It's pretty silly.
Although silly, some of the things feel just a little too real, like, "He is great for not letting your mother hit you when you haven't really done anything bad." Sudden, unexpected reference to child abuse. The second-to-last spread: "He is good for yelling at," showing a little child yelling at the rhinoceros, who has a tear coming out of his eye. He's so sad! And the last spread: "And he is easy to love," with the rhinoceros with a bow on his head and a little boy with a big smile on his face, hugging the rhinoceros's nose. Especially coming after the yelling page, it's so adorable. Shel Silverstein's an amazing writer, and an amazing artist. In a book that you would think would just be silly and frivolous, with nothing serious at all, it just has these touches here and there. Emotion, out of nowhere, in the middle of this book.
It's really cute. I would think that most children wouldn't get the emotional bits and would just think it was a funny book about having a rhinoceros for a pet. And it is funny. There's definitely no bad message to this. I don't think a child would actually get the impression from this that rhinoceroses make good pets. It's more or less a book of imagination, whimsy, and nonsense, and Shel Silverstein is a master of all three.