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The Secret Rhino Society

Illustrated by Samantha Cotterill



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About The Book

“This engaging romp will be a great way to initiate conversations about diversity, tolerance, and acceptance.”—Booklist (starred review)

In the spirit of favorites like Stick & Stone and Spoon this warmhearted and hilarious picture book tells the story of a highly unusual group of friends and is stunningly illustrated by Samantha Cotterill.

Meet Hudson, a hippo. Fran, an earthworm. And Jean, a lightbulb.

They have one thing in common: a profound appreciation for rhinos. So, they form a Secret Rhino Appreciation Society, in which a key activity it wearing paper horns. (Sometimes this results in a fire. That’s what happens when a lightbulb wears a paper horn.) But when they meet their first real, live rhino and ask her to do rhino-y things, she doesn’t want to charge or snort—she’s a gardener! She is not what the society expected, but can they learn to appreciate her for who she is?

This funny, character-driven story explores themes of friendship, expectations, and prejudice.

About The Author

Provided by the author

Jonathan E. Jacobs wears many hats, but first and foremost, he is a storyteller. Whether writing children’s books, making theater, or creating music-inspired spectacles, he’s always telling stories. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, teaches, and spins original vinyl as his alter ego, The Vintage DJ. Jonathan isn’t a member of any secret societies, but hopes to someday establish one where everyone can be a member! We’re going to need a really big clubhouse! Learn more at

About The Illustrator

Photograph courtesy of the illustrator

Samantha Cotterill has written and illustrated many popular books for children, including the Little Senses series, Thankful and Heartfelt by Elaine Vickers, A Grand Day by Jean Reidy, Look by Gabi Snyder, Jinx and the Doom Fight Crime! by Lisa Mantchev, and Just Add Glitter by Angela DiTerlizzi, which The New York Times called “a sparkle of genius.” Samantha lives with her family in upstate New York. Learn more at 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (June 2, 2020)
  • Length: 40 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534430006
  • Grades: P - 3
  • Ages: 4 - 8
  • Lexile ® AD560L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

This wonderfully witty tale features three best friends: Hudson, a hippo; Fran, a worm; and Jean, a gender-neutral lightbulb who prefers the pronoun they. All three are fascinated by rhinoceroses. Hudson admires their speed, Fran finds them delightfully intimidating, and Jean is impressed with their sturdy, "unbreakable" horns. Imagine their surprise when there's a knock on their secret rhino admiration society clubhouse door, and there stands an actual rhinoceros! Hudson puts in a request for a charging demonstration, or perhaps some snorting, or maybe some horn-sharpening tips. The rather puzzled rhino, Ivy, explains that she's come from the garden shop and is delivering a load of plants. The three friends regroup and invite Ivy in for "cheese and pickle sandwiches." Ivy thoroughly enjoys her snack and suggests that the trio open up a sandwich shop. And they do! Hudson creates a menu, Fran works on recipes, Jean takes care of mood lighting, and Ivy is in charge of landscaping. The amazing illustrations (hand-built 3-D sets on painted cardboard) perfectly complement the offbeat humor and gentle nudges about avoiding stereotypes and expected behaviors. This engaging romp will be a great way to initiate conversations about diversity, tolerance, and acceptance.

– Booklist *Starred*, March 15, 2020

In debut author Jacobs’s story, Hudson the hippo, Fran the earthworm, and Jean the light bulb have a major thing for rhinos: they regard one at a movie theater, form a society, and erect a ramshackle clubhouse where they gather wearing paper horns. In photographed three-dimensional scenes, drawn and assembled by hand, Cotterill (This Beach Is Loud!) both conveys her protagonists’ giddy enthusiasm and immerses readers in settings where the trio gathers to share and nurture their passion. The impressive theater appears replete with balconies, rows of red seats, and a proscenium stage; the house is packed with diverting textiles. The story reaches beyond a celebration of fandom in its second half, when the group meets a real live rhino named Ivy, a brightly dressed gardener who doesn’t charge, snort, or sharpen her horns. “You are just not what we expected a rhinoceros to be,” a flummoxed Hudson tells her, to which Ivy smartly rejoins: “I’m sorry you’re disappointed.” The sweet wrap-up feels somewhat off-course, involving a new group endeavor, but the story’s point is well made: it’s not up to a member of a group (or species) to conform to others’ expectations. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Susan Graham, Einstein Literary Management. Illustrator’s agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Productions. (June)

– Publishers Weekly, April 13, 2020

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More books from this illustrator: Samantha Cotterill