This is a deliciously silly story about Rita who really wants a pet. Her mum produces a very unsatisfactory flea, and the tadpole her uncle gives her isn’t much better. So Rita goes off to the zoo and comes back with a far more exciting rhinoceros.
But Rita hasn’t really thought through the problems of a pet rhinoceros, especially when you live, as she does, in a small flat on an upper floor. She has to smuggle him up and down in the lift, disguise him as best she can, and dispose of huge amounts of poo. While the rhinoceros loves Rita, he’d prefer to eat grass from Africa rather than toast and marmalade, and have somewhere comfortable to sleep. When Rita’s schoolmates use him as a bouncy castle enough is enough, and he goes back to the zoo.
Happily that’s not quite the end of the story. Although both Rita and the rhinoceros realise that it’s for the best, they both miss each other very much. So every summer they go off to the seaside together for a few days, and have a lovely time.
This is a great story to read with children, especially those begging for a pet. It provides an ideal opportunity to discuss the responsibilities involved and the needs of a particular animal. The detailed illustrations have an old-fashioned charm and are hilarious. I particularly liked the picture of the rhinoceros disguised in Rita’s hat and coat so that the zookeeper won’t notice her leading him out of the zoo.