Elephants are amazing creatures. They are fierce fighters, attentive mothers (and aunts, older sisters, and grandmothers!), and have complex behaviors that have intrigued scientists for ages. In honor of World Elephant Day, let's take a look at the fascinating and fun books we have about these majestic creatures:
Children's literature's most famous elephant stars in his very own yoga instruction book! As Babar demonstrates in Babar's Yoga for Elephants, even the most unwieldy creatures can tackle yoga poses. Through 15 yoga examples, Babar demonstrates how yoga helps to calm him as he travels around the world (he even offers helpful advice on what to do if your trunk gets in the way while practicing yoga).
Caitlin O'Connell 's A Baby Elephant in the Wild is a perfect introduction to elephants for young readers and listeners. With evocative photography and text, a small elephant's daunting world of survival is brought to life.
Although I love the final Elephant & Piggie for its sweetness and nostalgia, Elephant and Piggie: We Are in a Book! remains my #1 Elephant & Piggie (or Elephant & Gerald as some call it) book. Elephant & Piggie are super proud to be in a book and being read by a real reader, but Elephant freaks out when Piggie informs him that the book will eventually end. Luckily, they come up with a rather inventive solution. Not only is this hysterically funny (as are the other E&P books), but it also imparts the fun of reading (and re-reading!) in ways that books about the joys of reading often fail to do.
I've been a longtime favorite of the inimitable Scientists in the Field series (I am eagerly awaiting Crow Smarts). The Elephant Scientist follows renowned elephant researcher Caitlin O'Connell as she researches elephants in Nambia, during which she discovers that elephants actually listen with their limbs!
We've seen examples of gorillas painting (most famously Koko's artwork), but Elephants Can Paint, Too shows that these immense creatures enjoy playing with paints as well. Katya Arnold's work with preschoolers in Brooklyn is juxtaposed with her work with elephants in Thailand. Read this to young listeners who love books with photographs and true stories about animals.
I've read Little Elephant to my Baby Steps attendees many times over the years; even babies are entranced by infant elephants! Text is extremely short (one sentence per page), while the pictures are clear (by the legendary Tana Hoban) and uncluttered with extraneous details.
Finally, Splash is an outstanding read aloud on a hot summer day. Everyone in the jungle is sweltering on a hot African day, until baby elephant does what what comes naturally--making a huge splash! I've also used this with my Baby Steps class; even very young attention spans will love this.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library