Friday, January 12, 2018

Elephants everywhere!

So many books about elephants! I'm not complaining because elephants are smart, brave, social, and very cool animals. So if you've got an elephant-loving kid in your house, here are some new-ish books that will capture their imagination.
themes: nonfiction, animal families, STEM

How to Be an Elephant
by Katherine Roy
48 pages; ages 7 - 11
Roaring Brook Press, 2017

With flapping ears and whiffling trunks, the herd quickly relays the news. After 22 months of growing, a new baby is on her way.

There are so many things this young elephant needs to learn. She'll learn about the importance of family. She'll learn that her feet were made for walking. She'll learn about all the ways to use her trunk and how to communicate with distant families.

What I like about this book: It's info-packed, but so fun to read. Katherine Roy puts us right in the midst of a herd, so we get an intimate look at how young elephants grow up and the education they receive. I enjoyed learning more about the social groups of elephants, headed by a matriarch who protects them and leads them to water and food. Also the comparisons of young elephants to other youngsters who learn through play. Elephant children play games like "chase the enemy" with egrets, baboons, and other smaller neighbors; our children play tag and king of the hill. We need books like this to help our children understand how all life is connected, and how some species, like elephants, are keystone species for their ecosystems.

If you ever receive an elephant as a gift and need to weigh it, this book is for you.

Cao Chong Weighs and Elephant
by Songju Ma Daemicke; illustrated by Christina Wald
32 pages; ages 4-8
Arbordale, 2017

Nearly 2,000 years ago a curious boy named Cao Chong came up with a solution to a weighty problem. His father received an elephant as a gift. People marveled at its size and its long, flexible trunk. "It works like an arm and a hand," young Chong exclaims.

When they speculate on its weight, Chong's father puts up a prize for whoever can solve the problem. Scales won't work, and cutting the huge animal into smaller pieces to weigh isn't a humane solution. But Chong has an idea. It involves a lake, a boat, and  Archimedes' principle.

Why I like this book: Archimedes' principle - how can I not like it! Plus a creative way to introduce a complex idea to kids - and lots of back matter and activities.

How to Find an Elephant
by Kate Banks; illus. by Boris Kulikov
32 pages; ages 3-6
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017

The best time to look for an elephant is on a dull day when clouds hover on the horizon looking like spaceships.

I did not know that! Apparently there are many things I don't know about finding elephants: you have to climb a tree; you should carry a flute; and if you find one, don't feed it pizza.

What I like about this book: This imaginative, playful, and very much NOT nonfiction book is plain fun to read. We head out with the main character on an elephant-finding expedition. The fun part: the elephant is there, hidden on the page or - in some cases - not hidden at all.

Beyond the Books:

Learn more about African Elephants. National Geographic has a great page full of photos and information here. You can find out more about how people are working to save elephants at Save the Elephants.

What's Archimedes' Principle? Well, it was SO neat that he jumped out of a bathtub and ran through town shouting "Eureka!" Find out more here. And try it yourself here.

Go on an Elephant Finding Expedition around your neighborhood. If elephants were there, where would they be hiding? Would they be camouflaged? Would they be hiding beneath the snow? Better yet, head to a zoo and check out what the real elephants are doing. Maybe you'll catch one of the trainers working with the elephants - using broccoli treats to get the elephants to raise one foot at a time for cleaning.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - and we're also joining others over at Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copies from the publishers.


  1. I love that you have offered three very different books on these magnificent animals. I love the idea of finding elephant hiding places!

    1. seriously - elephants "hiding" in plain sight? that's so imaginative!

  2. Who doesn't love elephants? I will definitely check these out. Thanks for the post.

  3. I have not read much about elephants. You have some great suggestions here though to get me started. How to Find an Elephant looks like a lot fun. Thanks.

  4. I love the first and last books. I am looking forward to finding Chao Weighs an Elephant! Sounds fun.

  5. Thank you for providing this selection! I really like reading about elephants.