Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Elephant Wish by Lou Berger and illustrated by Ana Juan

This book was at once beautiful and sad. To understand, you will need an overview. The story is about a girl named Eliza, and it starts on her eighth birthday with a wish. Eliza wishes that an elephant will come and take her away from her home. It doesn't explicitly say this but from the rest of the book you come to understand this. So, an elephant named Cousin Floyd does come and it takes Eliza away to the jungle and she is happy for a time. Then her very old neighbor Adelle comes with her very old bulldog named Potato and tells her to go home. At first Eliza is stubborn and wont go, but then Adelle explains to Eliza that when she was a little girl she was rescued by Cousin Floyd and now she has come back to stay. Since both girls couldn't stay, and Eliza understood that Adelle needed to stay, she decided that she should go home after all. All the while, her busy busy parents are lamenting that they have lost their daughter. When Eliza gets home, they promise that they will spend more time with her. The pictures however, do not suggest that her parents followed through with this but it is okay because Eliza remembers something else that Adelle told her. The old lady had said that she would have plenty of adventures and friends to make still because she had her whole life ahead of her. This leads to my favorite part of the whole book, "sixty-three days, five hours and twenty-seven minutes later, Eliza found a friend who made her laugh like no one else, and together they created a secret language. Six years, five months, nine days and sixteen minutes from the time she returned home, she met a boy who sang to her, only to her." Okay okay I know, I am a romantic, right? I feel though that this was the author's own way of saying that she lived happily ever after. A very interesting thing about this book is that there is an adult theme rolled up into a more palatable form here. The theme is death, at least I feel that it is. When Adelle decided that she must go and find Cousin Floyd again and stay there forever, I think that really she was dying and going to her Heaven. I am not sure if this is what the author intended but I think that it is a plausible interpretation of the text.

That having been said, I really enjoyed this book. The story was told in a clever way, and it was unique. A lot of the pictures have elephants hidden in them somewhere, which I really liked. So there is plenty in the illustrations and the text to discuss with students. Also, I enjoy a story with a moral and here there are two very different ones. One I feel is for everyone, giving a message of sacrifice when Eliza gives up her wish for Adelle's. The second, whether it is intentional or not, is aimed at adults, more specifically parents. Simply put, it is that you should spend time with your children (or an elephant named Cousin Floyd will come and take them away...).

This book is prescribed ages 4 to 8 and though I think this is dead on, it could also be enjoyed by students that are a little older too. This is a book that I would surely have in my classroom. It had a moral, it had plenty to observe and dig in to and the illustrations were detailed and lovely.

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