These days, much of the news that we hear about elephants is not good. In fact it is downright depressing, and I confess that I have a hard time listening to the stories on the radio about the poaching problems in Africa and the habitat loss issues in Asia. When today's book arrived in the mail, I felt a little conflicted. Do I want to read this book, I asked myself. Thankfully I did read it. It is a lovely book and it reminded me that we need to keep on doing everything we can to save elephants, no matter how bad the situation looks.
Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
Illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy
Poetry Picture Book
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Clarion Books, 2011, 978-0-618-90349-8
Since ancient times, humans have been fascinated by elephants. There is something about elephants that captures the imagination, and people cannot help being drawn to these large animals with their tiny eyes, large plodding feet, long trunk, and gently swaying walk.
In this remarkable poetry title, poems, artwork, and sections of informative text are combined to give readers a book that looks elephants in a number of ways. We read about how people in many different cultures have elephants in their mythology. In the poem “Cousins of Clouds” we hear of how, long ago, elephants “were great kings of the sky.” One day the elephants angered a prophet by arguing in his presence. To punish the elephants the prophet cursed them so that their wings shriveled to become “pitiful ears,” and thus elephants became earth bound. Now these “cousins of clouds” can only dream of flying as they flap their ears.
We hear about two working elephants; one walks down a street in Bangkok surrounded by cars, and another works in Africa, carrying tourists who want to see Africa’s wildlife up close.
We hear how much an elephant enjoys a mud bath, and how an elephant’s trunk, with its more than forty thousand muscles, allows the animal to use this curious-looking appendage as a finger, a fork, an arm, a nose, and a piece of rope.
We also learn that elephant females work together to protect their precious babies, caring for them for several years. As one would expect in such intelligent and social animals, elephants have several ways to communicate with one another. In addition to making trumpeting noises with their trunks, elephants can communicate over long distances using low sounds that are “near silent.”
Using a wide variety of poetic forms the author of this book beautifully shares her affection for elephants with the reader. Each poem focuses on an elephant related topic, and it is accompanied by an illustration and a section of text. The text offers readers further information about the topic that is featured on that page. By the time readers get to the end of the book they are able to see how truly wondrous elephants are and how vital it is to protect and cherish them.