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Nicola Davies’s strong powerful images help guide young readers

Buy Last: The Story of a White Rhino

We’re delighted with this FIVE star review of Last from senior lecturer Mathew Tobin over on Goodreads! Have a read below.

Sudan is the last of his kind: a white rhino. Brutally taken from his mother, who was shot for her horn by poachers, he is shipped to a zoo devoid of any colour, smell, natural sound or life. With other animals who are also the last of their kind, Sudan seems destined to spend the rest of his life walking in the smallest, grey circle surrounded by walls of skyscrapers and endless, faceless traffic.

Yet hope is not lost. Throughout his years in isolated captivity, Sudan has constantly been watched by a young girl wearing a green, polka-dot scarf. In the first spread we see her alone, hands in pockets gazing thoughtfully at the rhino. We then see her twice at night with her father looking across at the solitary figure and then we find her alone too in her apartment overlooking the zoo: plotting and preparing. As it comes to rescuing Sudan, she appears more often and, as an adult, she ensures that he is safe and well-treated until he finds himself back home. There, will help, she released him back into the wild where he meets another rhino who smells just like his mother.

There are two stories being told with care and thought here by Davies. One of Sudan. His capture, his colourful and vibrant memories (evoked in Davies mixed media illustrations) and his eventual return. And then the story of the girl who goes on to actively save and return Sudan to his natural habitat. One then is of the crime and heartache that comes with capturing and slaughtering animals for self-gain and money. The other is equally powerful if not more so and that is to call-to-arms for young people to make a change and challenge this from happening again. A quote from the American environmentalist, Paul Hawken at the start of the book drives this message home:

‘Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.’

Davies has long been a successful advocate for animal and environmental protection but this is her first foray into illustration. It is clear that she has studied hard and worked well from the advice of practiced friends. Grey, dull images show a heavy, lifeless world when Sudan is in the city and these contrast remarkably with the vibrant rich colours of his home. Strong, powerful images to help guide young readers as to where animals really should be and what we should all be doing to make sure that this is a future we all support. A great addition to any home or classroom and one to share and extra together.

  • Watch: Virtual launch of Last with Helping Rhinos!
  • Watch: Nicola Davies introduces her illustrative debut ahead of launch!
  • Download: Discover Last teacher resources!
  • Last reminds us that we all have a responsibility towards nature – CILIP School Libraries Group

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