Once Upon A Small Rhinoceros


Written by Meg McKinlay
Illustrated by Leila Rudge

Walker Books Australia, 2017;  Forlaget Flachs (Danish edition), 2017; Thienemann-Esslinger Verlag GmbH (German edition), 2018; Walker Books UK, 2018

 Ages 5+

“Don’t you wish,” said the small rhinoceros, “that you could see the world?”

And so begins this delightful picture book by award-winning creators Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge.

Once, there was a small rhinoceros who wanted to see the big world. So she built a boat. And sailed away … From the duo behind award-winning picture book No Bears comes a simple yet inspirational tale about challenging the norm, pushing boundaries and being true to oneself.

What Readers Are Saying:

‘A great recommendation for kids aged two to six, this book is another charming collaboration between creators Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge. While their much-loved No Bears is playful and irreverent, this tale is inspirational and encourages children to march to their own beat. The story itself has a powerful message that can inspire kids to stay true to themselves and encourage them to test the limits of what is possible.’

‘I loved this gentle book and that every viewpoint is treated respectfully.’
Alexa Dretzke, Readings Hawthorn


Notable Book, 2018 CBCA Book of the Year Awards: Picture Book of the Year


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Behind the Story

Like many of my books, the story of my small rhinoceros comes from several places, and has had a long journey from spark to story.

It was a painting I saw in 1997 that formed the very early seed. Entitled “Intrepid Journey”, this was a work by WA artist Sue Templeton, who has generously shared this image with me.


The idea of an intrepid rhinoceros taking a solo journey by boat stayed with me and eventually, somewhere in the background of other projects, I began to spin a story around it.

Other bits and pieces of inspiration came along at various stages, and kicked the process along … things like this:


.. which is a still from a Fellini movie entitled “E la nave va” [“And the ship sails on”], which features a love-sick rhinoceros on a cruise liner, among other zany things.

And this:


… which is a sculpture of a wolf in a boat outside a museum in Canada.

And this:


… which is a postcard by illustrator Samantha Hughes.

I’m never quite sure how all the various bits and pieces fit together; I only know that they do, and have, and that the end result is this picture book, which I’ve become very fond of, not least because of Leila Rudge’s gorgeous illustrations.

If you’re interested in more details on the story behind the story, I wrote a blog post about the extended journey here.