Perfect Picture Book Friday – Ellie

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

I come from a family of elephant-lovers.

My grandmother had all the Babar books in French, printed in spidery script.  Between the French and the illegible script, none of us (me, my siblings, my cousins) could read them, which suited her just fine because that meant she got to read them to us 🙂

Does anyone besides me remember Babar?  I had the books (in regular print in English!), but I also had a record (Eek! my age is showing! 🙂 ) with 6 of the Babar stories on it.  They were accompanied by songs which you’ll be alarmed to know I can remember to this day.  I can’t remember my debit card pin number or where I hid the spare keys to the house, but I can sing you the song about Arthur pushing Pom, Flora and Alexander in the pram!  (“Twenty steps forward… twenty steps back.  Wheeling the carriage… I’ve got the knack…”)  Or the song about what all the little elephants hoped Father Christmas would bring them! (“Alexander wants a butterfly net and Flora wants a doll.  Arthur says a choo-choo train would please him most of all…”)  My head is crammed full of useless knowledge.  Sad but true! 🙂

Elephants (pronounced ed-o-wenta at our house because of a long-standing mispronunciation when our kids were little 🙂 ) are just as popular with our kids as they were with my siblings and my grandmother.  Maybe it’s because they’re so big and prehistoric-looking yet move with such lumbering grace.  Maybe it’s because of their fascinating matriarchal society.  Maybe it’s because it’s so intriguing to watch them actively problem-solve as a group.  Or maybe it’s just because baby elephants are so cute 🙂

No matter what it is that makes elephants so appealing, I hope you’ll like this book as much as I do 🙂


Title: Ellie

Written & Illustrated By: Mike Wu

Disney-Hyperion, May 2015, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-5

Themes/Topics: art, helping others, finding your own talents, animals (elephants)

Opening: “On a bright winter day, when Ellie was just finishing her lunch, the zookeeper came by with an announcement.

“Gather ’round!” Walt called.  “I have some news.

“It is a sad day,” he said.  “The zoo is closing.”

Brief Synopsis: The animals are heartbroken when they find out their zoo is closing.  They wonder if there’s any way they can help prevent it.  Perhaps they can spruce the place up?  Lucy the giraffe prunes the trees.  Gerard the gorilla tidies the path.  But Ellie the baby elephant isn’t tall enough to prune trees or strong enough to move rocks.  Is there anything she can do to save her beloved home?

Links To Resources:  YouTube video of real elephants who paint; fun facts about elephants; elephants work together to problem solve (videos) – help baby cross road, save baby stuck in the mud; preschool elephant activities and crafts

Why I Like This Book:  This is a sweet story about friendly animals pitching in to try to save their home.  Ellie wants so much to help, but at first she doesn’t think she has any skills that will serve.  Quite by accident, she discovers a talent that will not only help, but be the driving force behind saving the zoo, and the story comes to a satisfying ending.  The art is gorgeous and so appealing, starting off in soft greens and grays and becoming brighter and bolder as Ellie’s talent develops and her self-confidence grows.  And Ellie is such an endearing character she’s hard to resist 🙂  The story is loosely based on a relatively recent headline about elephants who paint, so has some grounding in fact 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Oh, one thing before we go!  I wanted to thank everyone who joined in the #aprilfoolphyllis contest last Friday to help spread the word of April Fool, Phyllis!‘s Kindle debut!  You are all so helpful and wonderful, and I really appreciate your help!  Phyllis does too, and she sends you all a virtual strawberry pie 🙂  The winner of the $25 Amazon gift certificate was Chelanne Green, and the 5 winners of a Kindle copy of April Fool, Phyllis! were Vivian Kirkfield, Genevieve Petrillo, Tina Cho, Tracy Potash, and Rebecca Forester.  Thank you, thank you to everyone for joining in so whole-heartedly!

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see your delightful picks for this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!!


39 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday – Ellie

  1. Linda Schueler says:

    I do remember Babar, but I never had any records related to the books. I can still remember other childhood ditties including Captain Kangaroo’s song that was especially for my name…Anyway, Ellie sounds fabulous, and I will check it out. We have some painting elephants at the local “lion safari”, but I don’t think they ever had to save the place.

  2. tinamcho says:

    I loved elephants as a child, too. I had a stuffed pink elephant and a yellow glass-blown necklace elephant. Anyway, this book looks darling! Can’t wait to read it.

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Ooh, nice that you actually had some elephants. But we had Central Park Zoo – which had elephants back then (not very good for them, but fun for us to see them.) I remember the exact smell of the elephant exhibit 🙂

  3. chattytcp says:

    Thanks so much for the gift! I was more than happy to help out.
    Funny – Ellie was on my list for today and then the last minute I changed my mind. This is a GREAT book!

    I love elephants too!!! They were always my favorite animal to gaze upon when my parents took me to the zoo as a child. As a teacher, I ALWAYS volunteer to chaperone the zoo trip with the 7th-grade team just so I can relive my childhood again 🙂

  4. Sue Heavenrich says:

    I remember the Babar books, too – though we never had the record. I haven’t read Ellie yet, so will have to put it on my list. Sounds like a wonderful story.

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      I had all kinds of records, now that I think about it. I had Mike Mulligan… and Snow White (with lots of songs)… and Danny Kaye.. and Burl Ives… and A Bargain For Frances. So much fun! I hope you like Ellie if you get a chance to read it – so cute 🙂

  5. Patricia Tilton says:

    This is a wonderful story about creativity and using one’s own talent to help a situation! I love elephant books. I remember Babar, but I was older when they came out, I believe. Great pick!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      It is a lovely story, Pat. I’m glad you like it too. (And sorry if you already shared it for PPBF and I forgot! :)) And I can’t believe you were very old when Babar came out… they’re pretty old, those books, and you’re not that much older than me… 29, right? 🙂

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Me too! But at this point we have so many books on the list (or we WOULD if I could ever catch up with updating the list!) that I don’t mind repeats anymore – I think it can be helpful for people to read a couple different reviews and get even more resources 🙂

  6. viviankirkfield says:

    Beautiful story, Susanna…and yes, I do remember Babar…and I have one of the older books that I picked up at a yard sale…and I love it. And thank you, Susanna…for the Kindle copy of April Fool, Phyllis!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      The only problem with Babar was the beginning… when his sweet mother is shot by hunters. I hate that part 😦 But the rest is good 🙂 And you are very welcome! Thank YOU for all the news-spreading you did – I so, so appreciate it! – AND the review!!! But I know you already had a Kindle copy because you said you purchased one, and I don’t think I’ve given you one yet… is there someone else you’d like one for?

      • viviankirkfield says:

        Yes, you are right about the sad beginning. Regarding the Kindle copy of April Fool, Phyllis, could we save it for next year? I’m starting to think in advance for next year’s #50 Precious Words Contest…one of the winners already offered to donate an autographed copy of one of her rhyming picture books. And I think a Kindle copy of April Fool, Phyllis would be another lovely prize.

  7. ptnozell says:

    This looks like a delightful book, Susanna. Love the idea of an artful elephant.

    Remember vinyl? We had it, too, scratches, skips & all. It’s now the “in” way to listen to music, so sayeth the husband who is busily rebuilding the collection that I encouraged him to recycle many years ago.

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      I like it because it was in the news a year or so ago (probably longer… I lose track of time :)) with real elephants painting – so amazing! And oh, yes, vinyl! I got rid of all mine a while back. I had some real treasures… like Air Supply 🙂

  8. Cathy Ballou Mealey says:

    My son is a huge Babar fan but we have no record to listen to. I can remember most of the Burl Ives’ “Little White Duck” album but I think that was the only children’s record we owned. You had to put a stack of pennies on the arm so the needle wouldn’t skip. 😉

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Oh, I know! There were so many good ones! Remember when Zephyr goes home to Monkeyville and needs the help of the mermaid, Eleanor? And when Babar and Celeste go on their honeymoon in the balloon? But my favorites were always the ones where Celeste had the triplets and the one where Father Christmas comes 🙂

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      I’m so impressed you can read it in French, Julie! My grandmother used to read and just translate it into English for us 🙂 And Ellie is super cute! Such a sweet story, and such endearing art!

  9. Penny Parker Klostermann says:

    I know about Babar! This book sounds wonderful. I put it on hold. I’ve just revised a manuscript that sounds a whole lot like this…only no elephant…a different creature. I hope it’s not too close because I’ve worked on this one for years and “saving the home” is my big emotional hook in my revision.
    Thanks for the review!

  10. jeanjames926 says:

    I don’t think I ever read Babar, yikes I feel like I totally missed out (off to the library). And Ellie looks adorable, and the story so poignant. I couldn’t help but be reminded of a video my friend posted where a group of elephants were crossing a rapidly running stream with a very strong current. A momma elephant gives her baby a push into the water to make the crossing. He starts to cross, but gets caught up in the current. The mother then rushes to his side, gets him to the bank but can’t get him up the bank and onto dry land. They’re stuck. All the other elephants who safely made the crossing realize the two are in trouble and need help, and come back in the water to rescue them. It was an amazing scene to witness. Talk about solving problems as a group, spectacular!

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