Tag Archive: elephants


oliver's tree

Oliver’s Tree by Kit Chase

Oliver, Charlie and Lulu are three best friends who love to play together outside.  When they play hide-and-seek though, Oliver doesn’t have as much fun as the others.  Lulu is a bird who loves to hide in the trees and Charlie the rabbit does too.  But Oliver is an elephant, and he doesn’t like trees at all, since he can’t climb them.  So the three friends set out to find a tree that will work for Oliver.  The low trees are too small for him.  Trees with big branches are too tall.  When they finally find a big low branch, Oliver is thrilled.  But then the branch breaks.  Oliver has had enough and runs off to be on his own.  He settles down on a huge tree stump and dozes off.  That’s when his friends have one great idea that saves the day and creates a tree that even an elephant can love!

Chase sets a pitch-perfect tone here for young children.  It’s a pleasure to see three children playing together in a picture book that is not about jealousy.  This instead is a book that celebrates differences and has children who work together to solve a problem in a creative way.  The result is a jolly book that has a fast pace and a cheery personality.

Chase’s illustrations have the same bounce as the text of the book.  They have a friendly quality that children will immediately respond to as well as a sweet humor that is cheerful.

It’s perfect tree climbing season right now, even if you are an elephant!  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Putnam.

hide and seek

Hide & Seek by Il Sung Na

The author of several lovely picture books returns with another beautiful book.  This time readers are part of a game of hide and seek with jungle animals.  Elephant offers to seek while the others hide.  There is a slow count from one to ten as the animals search for places to hide.  Giraffe opts for a tree to hide behind.  Gorilla stands atop Tortoise’s shell like a statue.  Elephant searches for everyone and one-by-one he finds them all, except for Chameleon.  All of the animals finally have to give up and Chameleon reveals himself.  Young readers can search for chameleon throughout the bright illustrations, participating in the game themselves.

The text here is fairly basic, allowing the game to create the pacing and story.  The counting from one to ten creates an effective counting book that is nicely married to a hide and seek game that will challenge young children. 

It is really the art that is special here, glowing with light from within and filled with bright colors.  None of the animals are colored as expected.  The elephant has vibrant ears in red with hearts.  The giraffe is a fiery yellow with red.  Tortoise is a rainbow of pattern and color.  The trees themselves are topped with colorful clouds of leaves.  It all creates a very dynamic and fanciful world.

Colorful counting and a game to play make this a great pick for lap sharing with your favorite toddler or preschooler.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

vote for me

Vote for Me by Ben Clanton

This picture-book look at the campaigning process takes young readers through a comical look at politics.  The donkey and elephant represent Democrats and Republicans only superficially.  They make no claims that match the party platforms at all.  Instead, it is about how cute elephant is, whether you will accept candy or peanuts as a bribe for your vote, and lots of grandstanding.  Soon the two are completely at odds with one another and slinging actual mud along with their bitter words.  The insults they use are harsh but humorous, just right for the picture book crowd.  Soon both of them have said things they regret and they agree to get along.  But it just might be too late for either of them to win the election!

This book is not an in-depth look at voting or politics.  Instead Clanton has created a light-hearted look at arguments and fighting through the lens of an election.  Adults will enjoy the clear ties to modern American elections while children will be engaged by the humor. 

The illustrations have a great vintage feel with a modern edge.  The pages are dappled like old paper that has just begun to mildew.  The two characters show lots of emotion throughout the book and it is clearly conveyed by their body language and facial expressions.

A chance to laugh a bit at the cantankerous campaign ahead of us, this book would work for discussions about arguments as well as a light-hearted look at elections.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

one and only ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is the gorilla that is part of the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.  The big billboard outside the mall shows Ivan as a ferocious beast, but he’s really a very easygoing guy.  He doesn’t remember anything about his life before he came to live with humans.  He was raised in Mack’s house as long as he was little and cute, but when he got bigger he was put into his domain: a glassed-in room.  He watches TV, lots of Westerns, and hangs out with his friends: an old elephant named Stella and a stray dog named Bob.  He also does art, scribbles that Mack sells in the mall gift shop.  Things change at the circus as money gets tighter until Mack purchases a baby elephant for the Big Top.  Ruby has been taken from her family and is full of lots of questions.  She makes Ivan look at his small, enclosed world more closely and inspires him to make promises that he will probably never be able to keep. 

I read this book in one long gulp, unable to get Ivan and his tiny, limited world out of my head.  The book is written from Ivan’s point of view, one that is distinctly gorilla and wonderfully familiar and foreign at the same time.  Applegate manages to give us a taste of being animal while never imbuing Ivan with human sensibilities, yet he is entirely relatable for readers.

The use of art to bridge the language gap between humans and gorillas is equally effective.  Ivan’s ruminations about art and how to capture taste and feel on paper is lovely.  Ivan’s world may be small and enclosed, but through art and his relationships with others, it grows larger and larger. 

This is a book that captivates.  It is compelling readers, bubbling with humor, yet addresses issues that are deep and complex.  It is a book that is memorable, rich and simply marvelous.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

hopper and wilson

Hopper and Wilson by Maria van Lieshout

Hopper and Wilson try to imagine what is on the other side of the big sea.  Wilson, the mouse, thinks there will be lots of lemonade there.  Hopper, the elephant, imagines a staircase to the moon!  So they decide to head out in their boat and see what actually is on the other side of the sea.  They bring their red balloon with them too.  They sail through the day and night, until they are awoken by rain and wind.  Soon the waves are huge and dangerous.  When the sea calms, Wilson is alone in the boat.  As he sails on alone, he asks animals if they have seen Hopper, but neither the turtles, nor the penguins, nor the whale had seen him.  Finally, Wilson sees a bird with a familiar red thread and discovers Hopper afloat on the balloon.  Happily after that they reach the other side of the sea.  And there they find they are home, what luck that home is at both the end and the beginning of the world.

This is a warm and lovely book about friendship and the meaning of home.  It has a great adventure at its center too.  Van Lieshout’s writing is friendly and welcoming.  There are small, sweet touches like the two characters saying farewell to their pet cactus before heading out, the reaction when the friends are reunited, and the moment they discover they are back home again.  This all adds up to a story that has a genuine heart.

A large part of the appeal of the book are the illustrations.  They are done in a mix of watercolors, ink, collage, colored pencil, crayon and acrylics “with some technology to pull it all together.”  They have the appealing liquidity of watercolors, the texture of pencil and crayon, and the deep black edges of ink. 

Highly recommended, this book has a radiant, timeless appeal.  Share it with your small adventurer who will also be happy to come back home at the end.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books.

Also reviewed by On My Bookshelf… and You Know, For Kids.

9781406314557

Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Kevin Waldron

British Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen has created another delight of a picture book.  Readers follow the adventures of Tiny Little Fly as he buzzes past some impressive animals.  Great Big Elephant tries to catch the fly, but even with all of his tramping and crushing, the fly flies away.  When Tiny Little Fly lands on Great Big Hippo’s ear, the hippo tries to catch him by rolling and squashing.  But the fly flies away.  Even Great Big Tiger, who swoops and snatches at the fly with his pay cannot catch the fly.  Told in a wonderful rhyme with plenty of noise and fun, this book will be right at home in any toddler story time.

Rosen’s verse here is filled with a sense of fun and playfulness.  The repetition in the book gives it a wonderful pace and gait that is a pleasure to read aloud.  Each large animal takes two winks at the fly, then tries in their own way to catch it with plenty of ruckus.  Thanks to the simplicity of the story and the attraction of the large animals, I can see this being made into a felt board story very easily.  It would also convert well into a little play acting with parents or teachers.

Waldron’s illustrations are simple but sophisticated.  They have a mix of timelessness and modernism that is charming.  His use of a natural-feeling background rather than stark white makes for a warm feel throughout the book.  Waldron combines several techniques in these illustrations from ink drawings to paint.  For reading aloud to a group, Waldron’s illustrations work well thanks to their large size.  Additionally, he allows children to guess what the next large animal will be, adding to the pleasure of sharing the book aloud. 

An ideal story time pick, get this one for any insect, tiger, elephant or hippo story time you are planning.  Heck, it’s good enough to use time and again for any reason at all.  A guaranteed hit with the toddler and preschool set.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Can I Play Too?

Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems

If you are ever looking for a picture book or easy reader sure to pull a child in and get them adoring books, pull any of Mo Willems books off the shelf.  His Elephant and Piggie series is so simple, yet profound and funny.  This latest book in the series is one of the best in the bunch.  Here we see Elephant, the careful and more serious character, and Piggie, who is loud and enthusiastic.  The two of them are best friends, which alone has led to some great books.  Add Snake who wants to join them in playing ball.  Of course, that’s a problem because Snake can’t really catch since he doesn’t have arms.  But that doesn’t mean he can’t try and it certainly doesn’t mean that Piggie can’t figure out a solution that will have them all playing together.

Willems is the master of brevity, capturing entire scenes in a few words and his simple illustrations.  His book are perfection for early readers but also make great read alouds thanks to his skill in writing.  His characters are beautifully drawn, offering so much in so few words and images.  It is magic on a page.

In this book, Willem’s natural humor comes pouring forth into a vaudeville-like scene that will have children laughing aloud, guffawing even.  It is a special easy reader that will have my teenage son crowding us on the couch to be able to see.  But then, all he needed to hear was that it was a Mo Willems book and it was funny. 

Guaranteed success between two covers, this book is laugh-out-loud funny, wry and as always with Willems, big hearted.  Appropriate for ages 3-6 and the occasional thirteen-year-old.

Reviewed from library copy.

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