Elephants: Being One and Finding One

Lynn: Not too many kids (or adult reviewers) can resist the allure of books about elephants. In fact, we have two outstanding books on that large subject.

The first is a nonfiction “fact” book, How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild (2017), by Katherine Roy. This is no dry, ordinary, facts-about-animals book! As with her Sibert Honor-winning Neighborhood Sharks (2014), Roy shakes up the form in spectacular fashion.

How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild by Katherine RoyBeginning with the birth of a new member of the herd, Roy details the many fascinating facets of elephant biology as the new baby learns and grows. Through her focus on the infant, Roy delves into food needs, the anatomy of the trunk, cooling mechanisms for that huge body, the shock-absorbing construction of elephant feet, herd communication, and more. Clever, often humorous diagrams do an excellent job of helping young readers understand complicated ideas, like a drawing explaining an elephant’s multi-purpose trunk by comparing it to a Swiss Army knife.

Absolutely gorgeous water color illustrations executed with strong, bold lines convey information while dazzling the eye. Outstanding back matter completes the book; it includes details of Roy’s trip to Africa, additional resources, and a heartfelt plea for us to share our planet with these amazing creatures.


Katherine Roy in her television commercial debut


Cindy: You may have seen author Katherine Roy recently in a commercial for Windows 10, where she plays with the art from Neighborhood Sharks to create presentations for students. If not, check it out here.

I’ll share a playful fictional picture book: How to Find an Elephant (2017), by Kate Banks. Forget about going on a bear hunt—it’s much more fun to try to spot an elephant in illustrator Boris Kulikov’s creative spreads!


The best time to look for an elephant is on a dull day
when clouds hover on the horizon
looking like spaceships.
And you’re thinking up something to do.

Spaceships aren’t the only thing hovering in the clouds; keep an eye on the hillsides, and even the white spaces between leaves. Once our young explorer dons a pith helmet and binoculars, the fun really begins. Banks’ text is full of good advice that supplies sly nods to clues about where to look (“don’t forget that elephants are fine swimmers!”). Put this book in your backpack and join the hunt!



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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