It is always exciting when Nicola Davies creates a new book so I could not wait to get my hands on her latest offering. Last is based on the true story of a Northern White Rhino named Sudan who was placed into a zoo in the Czech Republic in 1975 at aged two. The tragedy behind this rehoming was for his own protection, poaching and killing of white rhinos was and has been rife for many years, so much so that tragically there are only two white rhinos alive today and when they die the species will be extinct.
He used to live freely, roaming the plains with his mama. But then the poachers came, his mother was dead and he was taken in a box. Now his life is lonely and he feels as grey as the walls in which he is trapped. Pacing his enclosure each day, he is haunted by the memories of his past and the constant reminder that he is the last of his kind. Other animals are present at the zoo, all alone, maybe they are the last of their kind too. He may be alone in the animal world but there is someone watching over him, someone with the passion and power to take him back to where he truly belongs so once again he may roam freely in the place he calls home…
Nicola Davies never fails to deliver. Many of her books about nature and the environment deal with big and important issues and this is another one with a message that should be roared and shouted from the rooftops. It is a heart-wrenching story that will inspire and encourage readers of all ages to do more, be aware of the issues around conservation and the importance of protecting endangered animals.
Told in first person/animal from the rhino’s perspective the plight and hopelessness of the situation tugs at the heart strings as the rhino himself implores the reader to help and do more. The rhino in this story has someone to listen too. He is under the ever watchful eye of a young girl complete with polka dot scarf. She visits him at the zoo, watches over him from her city apartment before finally accompanying him on his return home.
Davies has chosen to illustrate this book herself and her debut as an illustrator is an absolute triumph. The illustrations are evocative, emotional and beautiful. The loneliness and lack of hope at the dark and gloomy zoo is contrasted wonderfully with the vibrant and colourful scenes that are filled with warmth and love of the plains that the rhino used to call home. The bleak and grey zoo scenes are peppered with quotes from advertising slogans and environmental speeches that are translated into different languages. The book is preceded and concluded with emotional and heart-felt forewords and afterwords. It takes quite a lot to bring a tear to my eye but Nicola Davies did.
Last should be on the shelves in every school, library and home. We need to do more to protect the extraordinary creatures that are part of our planet. In fact we we must do more, it is not a choice, it is a duty.
Recommended for 5+.