Tag Archives: Elephants

PPBF – The Elephant’s Umbrella

It’s been a rainy spring in the northeastern US. I’ve found myself reaching again and again for my umbrella – a common response of people all over the world when it rains. A common response, I’d wager, in Iran, too, the country in which both the author and illustrator of today’s Perfect Picture Book live:

61w7a8KNDLL._SL160_Title: The Elephant’s Umbrella

Written By: Laleh Jaffari

Illustrated By: Ali Khodai

Translated By: Azita Rassi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd/2017 (first published by Chekkeh Publishers, Iran)

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: sharing, elephants, umbrella, empathy, Iran, translated Picture Book


The elephant loved his umbrella. Whether it drizzled or poured, he’d open his umbrella and walk into the rain, proud to ask anybody he saw to join him under it.

Brief Synopsis: The elephant loves and shares his umbrella. But when she’s whisked from his grasp, the umbrella ends up in the hands of less-generous creatures, a leopard and a bear.

Links to Resources:

  • Make and decorate a paper-plate umbrella; better yet, make two and share one with a friend;
  • Explore Iran, where both the author and illustrator live;
  • The leopard and brown bear in the story both want to eat under the umbrella. Host an umbrella picnic and serve weather-related foods: sun-colored grilled cheese sandwiches or lemon cookies or maybe raindrop blueberries;
  • See more illustrations from The Elephant’s Umbrella and other Iranian picture books in a 2015 gallery in The Guardian newspaper.

Why I Like this Book:

The Elephant’s Umbrella is a lovely story of sharing and generosity that, I think, will appeal to the youngest of listeners. I found the jungle scenes bright and engaging, and I think kids and parents will enjoy them, too.

Unlike other sharing books that posit sharing as a win for the recipient with the donor sacrificing something (think Rainbow Fish giving its beautiful scales to others), The Elephant’s Umbrella presents sharing as a win-win situation: when the Elephant invites other creatures to sit under the umbrella with him, he stays dry and he gains friends. He shows, in a sense, that by cooperating, we help not only ourselves, but we make the pie bigger, so that all can benefit.the-elephants-umbrella-1024x512

A Note about Craft:

At first glance, The Elephant’s Umbrella is a simple story of sharing. From the title and opening lines, it seems clear: a caring Elephant has an umbrella, loses her (Jaffari uses the feminine pronoun) to a leopard and then to a bear, and finally gets her back. But how? Did either the leopard or bear steal her? And who is the main character anyway?

In a brilliant twist that’s a lesson for authors, the umbrella is the star of this story. When the wind blows her away from the elephant, the umbrella asks first the leopard and then the bear of their plans. Becoming aware of their pride and greediness, the umbrella asks the wind to “take me with you!”

By flipping the story in this way, I think Jaffari adds another layer to what could have been a very simple story. It causes me to wonder how seemingly inanimate objects or non-human creatures, like natural resources or animals, feel when misused or mistreated, whether on the playground or in the wider world. I think this opens up great discussion possibilities with kids who so often anthropomorphise pets, toys, or other objects.

Tiny Owl Publishing is “an independent publishing company committed to producing beautiful, original books for children.” Tiny Owl publishes “a range of books from Iranian authors and illustrators,” including When I Coloured in the World, which I reviewed in April 2017.

Per a review in Outside in World, “Iranian author Laleh Jaffari is an author, translator and TV director and has written 25 children’s books. Iranian illustrator Ali Khodai…has illustrated over 80 books and has won many national awards in his home country of Iran.”

Books Go Walkabout reviewed The Elephant’s Umbrella here and Tiny Owl references other reviews here.

The Elephant’s Umbrella is available for purchase in the US with free shipping via the Book Depository.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books  list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF -Have you seen Elephant?

I spent many enjoyable hours reading picture books by English authors and author/illustrators with my young family when we lived outside London many years ago. When I have the good fortune to find an English picture book on this side of the Pond, I’m eager to share it. Sometimes it’s the setting, sometimes the English humour, and sometimes it’s a word or scene that transports me back.

Today’s Perfect Picture Book reminded me of the humour evident in such British classics as Monty Python or Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean series – but targeted to the playground set. And for those in the mood for some hysterical English-American word comparisons, check out a wonderfully witty post at Picture Book Den.

: Have you seen Elephant?

Written & Illustrated By: David Barrow

Publisher/date: Gecko Press, NZ/2015

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes/Topics: hide and seek, elephants, playtime, family, all-dialogue, humorous

Opening: “Would you like to play hide and seek?” “OK. You hide.” “I must warn you though. I’m VERY good.”

Brief Synopsis: An elephant who is very good at hiding challenges his human friend to find him in a game of hide and seek.

Links to Resources:

  • Play hide and seek with a friend or family member
  • Hide something and challenge a friend, family member or even a pet to find it
  • Elephant is good at hiding. Is there something you are very good at that would surprise others? Show these friends or family members what you are good at & ask them to show you what they can do well.

Why I Like this Book:

Have you seen Elephant? is an engagingly simple picture book with a humorous plot. Young hide-and-seek fans will delight in finding the elephant that the unnamed boy and his parents don’t see (or perhaps choose not to see – a possibility raised by Barrow in a 2015 interview on the Playing by the Book blog). Their parents will enjoy the message that someone can be good at something even if he/she doesn’t fit a stereotype of someone who would succeed at that task.

A Note about Craft:

Have you seen Elephant? is a story with a very low word count, told all in dialogue, with 13 of its 28 pages comprised solely of engaging water colour illustrations. While the story could, perhaps, have been told wordlessly, the sparse dialogue adds tension and humor as the unnamed boy asks first his father, then his mother if they’ve seen Elephant. The observant dog is the perfect foil to the clueless family. And the twist at the end leaves this reader hoping that a sequel will be forthcoming.

This is a perfect example of a mentor text for all-dialogue, low word count, humorous picture books.

David Barrow was the winner of the Sebastian Walker Prize from Cambridge School of Art for most promising children’s illustrator in 2015. This is his debut picture book, and it’s short-listed for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2016 and long-listed for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2016.


PPBF: Elephant in the Dark

A few weeks ago I reviewed Two Parrots in honor of Persian New Year. While researching activities for that post, I discovered another holiday I knew nothing about: the Sikh holiday of Vaisakhi, also called Baisakhi, celebrated each year on 14 April. This harvest festival is celebrated throughout the Punjab region of India and by Sikhs worldwide. Interestingly, I found no picture books featuring Sikh stories or this holiday. If you know of any, please mention them in the comments.


9780545636704_p0_v1_s118x184Title: Elephant in the Dark

Retold By: Mina Javaherbin, based on a poem by Rumi

Illustrated By: Eugene Yelchin

Publisher/date: Scholastic Press, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Folktale; Fable; Elephants

Opening: “Merchant Ahmad had brought a mysterious creature all the way from India! The news spread fast through the village. What could the huge beast be?”

Brief Synopsis: When a merchant brings an unknown beast to the village and houses it in a darkened barn, everyone tries to guess what it is, and what it’s similar to, based on small sections of the animal.

Links to Resources:

  • Read more about Vaisakhi and color pages of Vaisakhi symbols and festivities including bhangra dancing, wheat for the harvest, and lions.
  • Fly a kite: a popular Vaisakhi activity.
  • Play 20 questions or another guessing game, such as discovering what’s in a closed box (based on shape and sound), or with eyes closed, touching one part of an object and trying to guess what it is.
  • Listen to Bhangra music and try a Bhangra dance – for ideas, check out the many youtube videos.

Why I Like this Book: This story is such a visual reminder to beware a tendency that many people share (myself included): to jump to conclusions without all of the evidence and then ignore evidence that doesn’t support those initial conclusions. Rumi’s fable is brought to life by Mina Javaherbin, an American immigrant born in Iran, and through the vibrant illustrations of Eugene Yelchin, also an American immigrant. In the end notes, Mr. Yelchin wrote,

       “I became an artist in Russia during the time when information was routinely obscured or distorted by the government. And that is why I so eagerly embraced the opportunity to illustrate this book. The importance of seeing the complete picture instead of groping for bits and pieces of it in the dark resonated deeply with me.”

I think this folktale will resonate on many levels with readers and listeners as well.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!