STRICTLY NO ELEPHANTS by Lisa Mantchev (+ Giveaway!)

Happy New Year! Whenever I start working on a new picture book, I pull out this quote from Allyn Johnston, vice president and publisher of Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster. She defines a narrative picture book this way:

“In the most basic, classic, and very best sense, you could say it is a story for young children told in both text and illustrations…And this story, when read aloud, will cast a spell around all who are present to hear it and look at it, and, with luck, will go straight into their hearts and never be forgotten.” 

These words always remind me that picture book creators have a big, wonderful job. For me, Strictly No Elephants is one of those memorable books that casts a spell and goes straight into the heart. Written by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo, this book accomplishes so much in just 256 words.

Here are 6 things I love about Strictly No Elephants:

1. It’s filled with imagination and whimsy. The idea of a boy having a tiny elephant for a pet and the idea of them loving each other – count me in! In one of my favorite scenes, the elephant doesn’t like walking over the cracks in the sidewalk. The boy lifts his elephant up and helps him over because “that’s what friends do: lift each other over the cracks.”

2. It features a relatable, kid-friendly goal and problem. The boy and his elephant are excited about going to Pet Club Day, but they are nervous. It can be hard to fit in when you’re the only one with an elephant. Kids understand what it’s like to worry about being accepted.  

3. I care about the characters. With every page turn, I care more and more about the main characters. When they arrive at the Pet Club (wearing those charming red scarves!) and get turned away at the door because no elephants are allowed – well, now my heart is breaking for them, and I need someone to pass the tissue box.

4. Kids come up with the solution. Just when it seems like hope is lost, the boy meets a girl who also has a unique pet. The Pet Club turned her away too because of her skunk. The boy and girl decide to collaborate and start a new club. New friendships are born, and I feel the love!

5. Suspense keeps me turning pages – all the way to the satisfying end. More kids and pets join the new club. They are on their way. Some of them are pointing. Where is everybody going?

6. Beautiful themes emerge (in a subtle way). In the end, the group finds the perfect place to play. My favorite part: they hang a sign that says ALL ARE WELCOME. Strictly No Elephants shows kids that friendship and inclusion matter. It also shows kids (and all of us) that we have the power to create change in this world. Thank goodness!


For a chance to win a copy of Strictly No Elephants, leave a comment by January 17. I’ll announce the randomly-selected winner in my next post.

Thanks & see you next time!


Michelle Meadows

Michelle Meadows is the author of many acclaimed books for children. She loves dreaming up new projects and telling stories with heart. Connection, compassion, and family are common themes in her work. Michelle's books include FLYING HIGH: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles and BRAVE BALLERINA: The Story of Janet Collins. Michelle also contributed to BLACK BALLERINAS: My Journey to Our Legacy by Misty Copeland. Michelle graduated from Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism and literature. Michelle is represented by literary agent Rosemary Stimola of the Stimola Literary Studio. Michelle grew up in Washington, D.C. and now lives near the beach in Delaware with her husband. To learn more about Michelle's books, visit her website:


  1. Yes, those scarves! And what a great quote…think I’ll pin it somewhere I will see it often!

  2. Lovely book. Thanks for the post, Michelle!

  3. I love STRICTLY NO ELEPHANTS! Great post, Michelle. And that quote from Allyn . . . ❤️

  4. I love this book! Great post, Michelle.

  5. Deborah Buschman

    This is such a great book. Thanks Michelle for the inspiring quote to start my day.

  6. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    Oooh, sounds like a sweet book. Just requested it from my library! Thanks for a great post!

  7. Such a sweet story! Happy to see you at PBB Michelle!

  8. Thank you! I’m going to look up this book, I love the theme. The fact that a PB can leave a lasting impression is one that I’ve often thought about and hope will be true of any I write.

  9. Love the story. Imagine an elephant who is afraid of the cracks in the sidewalk. Brought me right back to my childhood. Dang there were so many cracks on the sidewalks in my neighborhood. If I had to pick up my elephant friend everytime there was a crack, wow. I would be exhausted.
    Time to schedule in more brain flow sessions bu myself.

  10. Welcome, Michelle! And what a great way to start with PBB. I hadn’t yet seen a copy of STRICTLY NO ELEPHANTS, and now I have to have it! 🙂

  11. This book looks darling, and I love the title!

  12. Love this! Can’t wait to hold it!

  13. Thanks for sharing, Michelle, now I want to read it!

  14. Wonderful analysis of a whimsical book. Dig that quote too, Michelle!

  15. I also adore this book! Thanks for reminding me why!

  16. Welcome!! I love this book!!
    And i love that quote!! I’m putting it by my laptop!! Thanks for sharing it!!

  17. What a great example to choose!

  18. Thank you for this book! Children need to know there is a place for them(and their pets) in this world and that they can be welcoming even when others are not.
    Looking forward to reading the whole book!

  19. I love the retro feel of the illustrations and the story is charming. I look forward to reading it!

  20. This book looks sweet and so kid-friendly. Congrats!

  21. This book is one of our favorites. Thanks for a fun post.

  22. A wonderful quote that I shall also use now. Thanks! This book sounds and looks like a pure delight. Something I need to read and enjoy as a mentor text for an idea or two I have brewing.

  23. Sounds like an Awesome book!

  24. This is my all time favorite picture book! Thanks for your post!

  25. Looks adorable! I’m looking forward to reading it!

  26. This books sounds adorable. I look forward to reading it. Thank you for sharing

  27. So happy to have you here, Michelle–and what a wonderful post! I love this book (and am excited to say that Taeeun illustrated a book I wrote that’s coming out in May–I love her work!). Welcome to PBB!! 🙂

  28. Danielle Hammelef

    This is a fun idea/angle for acceptance and making new friends. I love the elephant being afraid to step over cracks. I enjoyed reading this post today.

  29. This book gives me ALL the feels! Strictly No Elephants is going to be my go to gift for children of all ages! What a lovely way to spread the message of acceptance.

  30. Thanks Michelle! I really enjoy “Strictly No Elephants” for all the reasons you highlighted!

  31. I think it would be great to have a treehouse full of elephants and other critters!

  32. Wow, Michelle! Great quote and awesome book find. I love how you broke down the key elements to this fantastic book. Thanks for sharing!

  33. Welcome to PBB. This is one of my all-time favorite books. Lisa Mantchev did such an amazing job in creating a heartwrenching and uplifting mirror and window for her readers (kids and adults alike). Great review.

  34. Absolutely wonderful! I love the story idea and slightly retro feel of the art. Well done!

  35. I loved this book from the moment I picked it up! Thanks for sharing the reasons you love it.

  36. What a wonderful way to make us think about inclusion while entertaining us with delightful characters and reaching inside us to touch our hearts.

  37. One of my all time favorites! It is everything you say it is!

    Loved reading your thoughts 🙂

  38. Jennifer Lane Wilson

    One of my favorites too – the words and the art and the heart. Those red scarves!!

  39. Wonderful story sentiment. Great post explaining the book’s uniqueness, just the pets. 🙂

  40. This one is a winner, indeed. Thanks for sharing!

  41. Dear Michelle, This is my first time visiting your site and I just LOVE it. This story of inclusion really made my heart sing. Thank You for sharing and letting me read those pages. I look forward to reading it to my Grandchildren. 🙂

  42. San Juanita George

    Loved! Going in my daughter’s (teacher) resource library!

  43. What a fabulous book and message. Bravo, Lisa!

  44. Janet Frenck Sheets

    I like the Allyn Johnston quote, and think you have a terrific idea in pulling it up when you start each new book. Maybe I’ll find a quote that speaks to me, and do the same.

  45. Aww this sounds adorable. I love how they create their own solution in the end. Thanks for sharing, Michelle! I look forward to more PBB posts from you in the future.

  46. Wonderful article. I love your book. Such a heartwarming story.

  47. Thanks for sharing. A wonderful book with a great lesson.

  48. Love this book. I enjoyed your critique of it and how it touched your heart too.

  49. I must read this! I love your quote by Allyn J! Thanks for sharing that!

  50. This is definitely on my “to read” list now. A great mentor text, too!

  51. Can’t wait to read it! The colors, the characters all make me want to get it right away. Great theme for the times right now, too (added bonus).

  52. I am so glad to have discovered this blog–full of some of my favorite picture books writers and an inspiration. 256 words! I love how well the words and illustrations word to tell the story with whimsy and heart.

  53. I hope we see this one on some award lists.

  54. Shelley Smithson

    Oh, this story seems to have that special magic of a picture book for children that has an enduring, wise and emotionally heartfelt message. There seems to be a playfulness that makes the hurt underneath bearable while the reader moves through the story with the empowering action of the characters. What an endearing way to say so much with few words and illustrations that capture one’s heart.

  55. Thanks for this post on a book that I’ll need to check out!

  56. You pointed out some things I didn’t notice before. I’ll have to read it again. Such a great and important book right now. Thanks for sharing. And welcome!

  57. Hooray for inclusivity and Strictly No Elephants! ❤️❤️??????

  58. Adding this to my new year’s need-to-read list! Thanks for the introduction and for the quote from Allyn Johnston. 🙂

  59. On my to-read-list for 2020! thank you for a good read.

  60. One of my favorite books! Great post!

  61. Love the message of this book!

  62. I love this book! I’m a children’s librarian and I recommend it to teachers all the time. It send such a wonderful message!

  63. Love this story of children making room for all in their world!

  64. The picture of the little hedgehog is sooooo cute!

  65. This is a great mentor text for books about inclusion. Thanks for sharing, Michelle, and welcome to PBB.

  66. This book is such a gem! Thanks for sharing the story touchstones.

  67. Such a great book, and I loved your post about it. Thanks, Michelle!

  68. This is one of my all-time favorites. I think it’s the spread where he carries the elephant over the crack. Just gets me every time.

  69. I love this story! It has such heart.

  70. What a great post, Michelle. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one. Thanks so much and welcome to Picture Book Builders!

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