Book Review – Elephants Never Forget! by Anushka Ravishankar

Title: Elephants Never Forget!
Author: 
Anushka Ravishankar
Illustrator: 
Christiane Pieper
Format: 
Hardcover
Written: 
2007
Published: 
2007

A rollicking adventure story takes one little elephant through terrifying thunderstorms and tiger attacks, isolation, and even an existential crisis, as he learns what really shapes his identity. After running away and joining a herd of buffalo, a little elephant finds his place despite his differences. He stays on with the herd, and is appreciated for who he is and what his differences can bring to the group. When he crosses paths with a herd of other elephants, he is torn about where he belongs, and finds himself making a difficult choice. The text bounces, and swirls across the page, full of onomatopoeias and impact words. Beautifully, but starkly illustrated with elaborate woodcut-style prints in black, white, and a medium grey-blue, this book has a lot of cohesive symbolism. Am I this? Or am I that? Could I be something in the middle? The illustration style not only reinforces that concept, it dances and plays around those boundaries.

I love books that give children credit for having complex inner experiences, and this one definitely does that. There is plenty here to interest younger children, like bold images and big words, but I think this book would be best for children just starting school, when social divisions begin to occur, and some children struggle to find their place in a new little society. This book reinforces the idea that your friends, and your experiences with them, help to shape you as a person, but that ultimately, you are the arbiter of who you decide to be. and you don’t have to be who the rest of the world might think you are. Growing up as an Army brat and frequent transplant, I would’ve gotten a lot out of this book’s message during my own childhood.

I would recommend this book for a library trip, and certainly for K-3 classrooms and read-a-louds, but I don’t think it’s a book that kids will pull out for themselves or get the most out of without guidance from adults. For that reason I’m giving it 4/5.

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Book Review – Mix It Up by Hervé Tullet

Title: Mix It Up
Author: Hervé Tullet
Illustrator:  Hervé Tullet
Translator: Christopher Franceschelli
Format: Hardcover
Written: 2014
Published: 2014

After a child has learned to identify colors, where do you go next? Making colors! If your goal is to teach the very young about how secondary colors are made, and how to use their imagination to interact with the printed page, you cannot skip this book! Vibrant colors and hands-on prompts not only bring young readers right into the action, the text subtly cues them to imagine what might come next and then to act it out using the very book in their hands. Large splotches of paint merge together when the book is closed, or shaken, or a finger is rubbed across it. This makes for a uniquely immersive experience among literature for very young children. It’s a self-aware book that breaks the fourth wall and asks readers to manipulate and touch it. However, the effects of those touches and manipulations aren’t real, like many board books; they are illustrated. That means readers are jumping back and forth between real and imaginary. As the text guides them through it, they begin to conceptualize.

I read this to a two-and-a-half-year-old and watched as her confusion became conceptualization before my eyes. There is definitely real educational and developmental value in this book. When I picked it up, I thought it would help teach my daughter that yellow and blue make green, and it has, by giving an example of conceptual foundations for imagination. Yellow isn’t a real and tactile thing that she can easily mix with blue in her everyday experiences. Color is always represented by something, even if it is paint. (Or, in this case, illustrations of paint) The poetically graphic method this piece of children’s literature utilizes to convey its information about color theory is very complementary to the process of learning about color theory. It’s elegant, and I admire it. I would recommend this to parents, caretakers, and art teachers everywhere. 5/5

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