Reading with our kids is valuable for so many reasons, and instilling an early notion of environmental advocacy is one important benefit. Chizi’s Tale: The True Story of an Orphaned Black Rhino is the sweet story of an orphaned black rhino in Zimbabwe who comes into the care of a local conservationist and his family. Written by a Connecticut high schooler who has spent numerous summers in Africa, Chizi’s Tale is a wonderful way to introduce the wider world and environmental issues into your child’s life in a humorous and adorable way. This story will open your child’s eyes to how a wild baby animal became an untraditional family pet and how he lovingly becomes a part of the family who cares for him and prepares to eventually return him to the wild.

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Chizi’s Tale is effective because its message is gentle and age-appropriate. While the statistics surrounding these endangered creatures is staggering (the black rhino population has decreased from 65,000 to less than 5,000 in the past forty years), Chizi’s Tale focuses on the most natural way for children to want to help create change: through their heart. Sharing facts about how Chizi loved to suck on someone’s thumb to calm himself down as a baby as well as his willingness to serve as a pillow for the family’s three children will make any reader realize that despite the their size and uncuddly appearance, these black rhinos need love and care to grow just as kids do.

Chizi’s Tale also appeals to kids’ sense of humor. Chizi’s Tale is filled with stories of the mischievous, not-so-little rhino and his funny misadventures, including how he learned how to sneak into the shower and turn it on by wiggling his back. The book contains an important message about conservation as well, detailing the efforts of the family caring for Chizi to return him to his native environment when he turns three, the same age he would become independent from his mother. The father takes Chizi on trips back to the wild, where the growing rhino can learn how to find food, socialize, and survive.

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Illustrated by a local Zimbabwean artist, Chizi’s Tale is immensely appealing in the visual sense as well, so be prepared to fend off requests for a baby rhino as a new family pet. The illustrations include small realistic details of family life as well as endearing portraits of a wild animal growing and adjusting to life within a different sort of family. For older kids, Chizi’s Tale also contains interesting facts about black rhinos and the reasons why so many are still illegally poached. There’s also a blog with pictures and a downloadable activity pack. All the proceeds from the book go to conservation charity Tusk.

+ Chizi’s Tale: The True Story of an Orphaned Black Rhino $16.99