Riley the Rhinoceros
by Patricia Derrick
PageTurner Press and Media

"It’s true, you are the jungle bus,
But you can’t give rides to all of us,
‘Cause that would be Pre Pos Ter Ous."

Derrick's knack for connecting with young minds is repeatedly on display as the combination of illustrations and characters opens a world of exploration for students building deeper relationships with the written word. The story revolves around life in the tropical forests, where Riley the Rhinoceros generously transports baby animals and is fondly known as the jungle bus. In a society predicated upon technology, where children are one click away from their favorite shows and instant gratification, this narrative is a refreshing take on a sometimes forgotten notion of exercising the imagination.

On many levels, Derrick's work is an experience for the child reader. Whether it is diving into the colorful illustrations or coming face to face with the different animals, the author consistently demonstrates sensitivity and empathy toward the jungle's young babies while holding the grown-up animals accountable by not providing them a ride. Riley's various encounters are ideal for youth to understand necessary communicative behaviors, such as the ability to say "no" tactfully.

Undoubtedly, the plot itself is engaging. However, Derrick's conscious attempts at imbuing the work with a consistent lyrical rhythm are distinguishing factors. It is easy to envision this piece being a bedtime read, but it is equally easy to conjure a storytime read-aloud session with animated students joining in the chorus: "'Cause that would be Pre Pos Ter Ous." Using alliteration with all the characters creates instant memory imprints, and readers are unlikely to forget Titan the Tiger or Jasper the Jaguar's attempts to jump onto Riley's back. More than anything else, Derrick's ability to actively provide a reading environment that caters to all types of learners (e.g., visual, musical, etc.) is compelling and has the potential to shape young minds toward a passion for exploring worlds and characters through storytelling.

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