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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Zola's Elephant, written by Randall de Seve and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2018. $25.50 ages 5 and up

"I can't go make friends
with Zola now because
she and her elephant are
taking a bath.

I know because I hear
bath water running
and elephants love 
taking baths.

Elephants also love
hide and seek."

What a truly beautiful book this is ... both in story and art! When Zola and her family move into their new house, her mother knows that the neighbors have a little girl. In fact, she and that girl's mother have already had a conversation concerning their daughters and decided they will be friends.

The girl next door is the narrator of this thoughtful and imaginative tale. She watches as the truck is unpacked, knowing that her mother would like her to be friends with Zola. She is convinced that the biggest box unpacked holds Zola's best friend - an elephant. She knows that Zola is very busy with her elephant friend, as it will need to eat lots of food, to take a bath, and to play games. She knows because she can hear all the sounds that prove what is happening behind closed doors. She is convinced Zola will not be looking for another friend. 

Each turn from a page of text shows a gorgeously illustrated, wordless double page spread of what is really happening at Zola's house. Things are not as the girl imagines; in fact, Zola's day is tedious and very lonely. Will our shy narrator take a leap of faith and make the decision to pay a visit? Will her love of elephants help her take the risk?

The imaginative language of this charming tale is perfect for reading on its own. Adding the gorgeous multimedia artwork that creates two very different scenarios makes it even more perfect! That combination makes it a very special book to read and then read again. I love the 'circus'  feel throughout. It will encourage much discussion as the book is read. The color palette chosen is just right when showing the joy of the imagination paired with the loneliness of Zola's reality.

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