The Barnabus Project by the Fan Brothers. 2020. Graphite and colored digitally. Published by Penguin Random House.
Brief summary: Barnabus is a combo of a mouse and an elephant. He lives in a secret lab underneath the Perfect Pets store. Barnabus is one of many failed projects living in bell jars dreaming of the world above thanks to the descriptions of it by a cockroach named Pip. One day Green Rubber Suits come down poking and talking about each creature in a bell jar while putting red stamps on all of the jars…FAIL. Before, they had no idea they were failed lab projects until Pip tells them that they indeed are and that there are better versions of themselves above. The creatures are going to be recycled. Barnabus decides he wants to go up now and see that wonderful world the cockroach tells everyone. All the creatures decide to join Barnabus and their adventures begin with figuring out how to get above. What will they discover?
Comments: I love the imagination and creativity of this book. The Perfect Pets Store is hilarious. Young readers can empathize with the failed projects and the desire of the creatures wanting to escape to live freely in a new world.
The Fan Brothers never fail to share a unique and creative story.
How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild by Katherine Roy; illustrated by Katherine Roy. 2017. Watercolors. Published by Roaring Brook Press.
Brief summary: An infant elephant is born into a loving herd that raises her to adulthood teaching all of the skills an elephant must learn to live.
Comments: Although my description is short, the book is actually quite detailed and covered many facts about elephants I did not know about earlier. The diagrams help explain how the elephant smells, hears, communicates and other skills needed to be an elephant. The author/illustrator went to Kenya to research elephants and her love of them is felt in the beautiful illustrations. This book is a must for all elephant lovers.
Ella Who? by Linda Ashman; illustrated by Sara Sanchez. 2017. Illustration done digitally. Published by Sterling Children’s Books.
Brief Summary: On moving day, a little girl meets a baby elephant in the house. She tries to tell her mom, dad, and grandma who are only half listening, because they are busy bringing in furniture and arranging the new house. “Ella who?” They conclude Ella is a girl next door. The little girl plays with the elephant all day not interacting with her family as she understands they will not listen to her and see that there really is a baby elephant. A man rings the bell at the house and gives the mom and dad a flyer of the missing elephant. The paper has all of the information about the missing elephant which looks just like her new friend. The little girl realizes it is Fiona, the missing elephant, so calls the number. The man comes to collect Fiona never interacting with the parents. The little girl and her new friend wave good-bye to each other. The little girl goes inside where her family exclaims they were looking all over for her. “I was saying goodbye to the elephant,” she explains. Her family believes she means Ella, the girl next door.
Comments: The last spread is a foreshadowing of another story beginning to start. The young reader also sees that the family is living next to a wild animal sanctuary and then understands how these wild animals may end up in the little girl’s back yard. This text was in the first person and tells the story seen through the eyes of the little girl. I would use this picture book as an example when students are first learning about the different points-of-view in literature. Elementary students will relate to the little girl being misunderstood in this picture book, because the grownups are not listening. This has happened to them. They will also try to predict what will happen. Will the grownups see the elephant? What will happen in the next story?
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