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!