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Friday, January 18, 2019

The Elephant, by Jenni Desmond. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada, 2018. $28.50 ages 8 and up

" ... the longest, most versatile nose in the animal world. Elephants use their flexible trunks - part upper lip, part nose - to smell the air and earth for nearby food and water sources, and to pick up the scent of other elephants and possible danger. They also use their hose-like noses to breathe, drink, eat, trumpet, lift things, spray themselves with dust or water, to play, wrestle, dig, wallop, and to comfort and caress."

Jenni Desmond has great concern for the endangered species in our world. She has chosen to share that concern with a young audience; the first two, The Blue Whale (2015) and The Polar Bear (2016), won praise and admiration for her ability to share her research in accessible and meaningful ways. Her realistic and and natural images of the animals she loves surely add to the appeal.

The young boy on the cover is the impetus for this new book. He, too. loves animals - of the stuffed kind (elephant included); he favors a pot of tea at his side when he settles to read his new book about elephants; his menagerie is a willing audience for what he has to share. And, there appear to be a pair of elephants outside his window listening avidly as well. There is much detail in the first double-page spread that reveals the love he feels for these gentle giants.

Ms. Desmond moves forward to help her audience learn as much as possible, adding more relevant and interesting information at every turn of the page. She provides maps, comparisons, territory, diet, anatomy, interesting and often unusual facts that are quite astounding.

"An African savanna elephant male, or bull, can reach 13 feet tall and 24 feet long, and can weigh up to seven tons. That's about the weight of four large cars. The females, or cows, are half that size. Even baby elephants are big. At birth, an African savanna elephant calf can be 260 pounds, the weight of a speedy motor scooter."

That puts it in perspective, doesn't it?

The illustration of the young boy sitting atop the pile of fruit an elephant consumes in one day will provide fodder for thought! She adds a note concerning digestion and elimination.

"Elephants don't digest their food efficiently, so that same fruit-devouring elephant might poo 12 to 15 times in one day, producing more than 300 pounds of steaming dung."

I like that she uses scientific terms without explanation, assuming her readers will understand the context within which it is shared ... and most will. The beautiful images are created using watercolor, acrylic, pencil, crayons, and drypoint in a muted palette while the boy and his friend are much brighter. The details are infinite, the realism quite amazing, and the joy in sharing so much about this truly magnificent mammal make this an essential purchase for both home and school libraries. 

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