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Elephant's Story by Tracey Campbell Pearson

OCTOBER 22, 2013

Written and Illustrated
by Tracey Campbell Pearson

Margaret Ferguson Books,
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Hardcover ISBN

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The day Gracie loses her favorite book, Elephant finds it. He sniffs the words ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS and--oops--they go up his trunk, where they wiggle and jiggle and make him sneeze. The letters fly through the air helter skelter, and when Elephant tries to put them back together, he can't figure out how to make the right words that fit. He asks his friends for help, but they just choose some of the letters to make up their own words--Alligator wants to CHEW them, Seal SPINs them, Monkeys THROW them, and Bear just SNOREs. Lucky for Elephant, Gracie comes looking for her book. She makes the letters into the right words and then adds some of her own: A girl made a new friend. His name was Elephant.


ELEPHANT'S STORY began with a missed phone call from the Youth Services Consultant at the Vermont Department of Libraries. I was at the Eric Carle Museum gawking at Tomi Ungerer's artwork. (Sendak and Tomi are two reasons why I got into this business - Sendak was my teacher and he introduced me to Tomi's work.)

Click here for a storyboard of how ELEPHANT'S STORY came to be.

Elephant has his own blog!
Visit http://elephantstoryblog.com for everything Elephant! Sketches, photos and more!


Elephant's Story Event/Activities Kit

Elephant's Story Alphabet Poster





"When Elephant comes across a little girl’s book, he’s curious, so he opens it up and starts sniffing. The print isn’t affixed very well to the page, though, and the letters shoot right up his trunk. Elephant then sneezes, but that turns “Once upon a time there was” into a mess of gibberish. None of Elephant’s animal friends are much help in getting things back in order, so Elephant sucks the letters back up. The book’s owner Gracie saves the day: when she finds that her missing book is now blank, she pulls and tickles the letters right back out and shows Elephant how to craft them back into a story. Unassuming and straightforward, this is a whimsical introduction to the idea that letters make up words, with a gentle nudge toward emergent literacies (although it will likely take either an old hat at recognizing words or a grownup’s direction to notice that the alligator who just wants to eat the letters up has rearranged them to say “chew” or that the juggling seal has jumbled them into “spin”). The messy line-and-wash illustrations enhance the playfulness with their relaxed, scribbly ink outlines and muddy watercolors in muted hues that often exceed their boundaries. Elephant’s horrified expressions as the other creatures nonchalantly toss the letters about add humor, while Gracie’s spiky ponytail, pastel outfit, and unflappable grin are classically Pearson. Pair this with Bottner’s An Annoying ABC (BCCB 12/11) or a similar title for a chaos-inducing look at the alphabet, or simply use it up close as a personable introduction to decoding words."

-TA The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"First, let’s talk about the fantastic endpapers, where Elephant, star of the show, contorts himself adorably into the shape of each letter of the alphabet, using his trunk to great advantage. Then, the story begins with the line, “The day Gracie loses her favorite book, Elephant finds it.” Elephant sniffs the red hardcover, but his sniffing powers are so developed that the words written inside the book get sucked right up his trunk. When he sneezes, you know what that means: letters spewed everywhere. Elephant can’t put the letters back into words, and so he asks for help. But Alligator wants to eat the letters, Seal wants to spin them like a ball, and the monkeys want to toss them around. Eventually, Elephant gives up and faces a difficult question from Gracie: “Where are my words?” With a little teamwork, Gracie and new pal Elephant set things straight. Pearson’s art is the real winner here, as a loosely outlined, gray watercolor elephant with great facial expressions cavorts gigantically across the pages. A good choice for the smallest book lovers."

— Ann Kelley Booklist

"Elephant is worried. It shows in his eyes. He has accidentally sucked up all the words in Gracie’s favorite book. When he presents the blank-paged book to his friends, they don’t know what to do. Instead of making words, Seal spins the letters around his nose, Monkey throws them around, and Alligator eats them. There are some tense moments when Gracie sees Elephant sitting on her lost book, so she pulls on his trunk and tickles it, and a big sneeze produces all the missing words. Pearson’s humorous illustrations are drawn with a loose flowing line. An overlay of light watercolors brings to life Elephant’s expressive face. Endpapers show him making the letters of the alphabet with his body. A lighthearted picture book for storytimes about friendship, cooperation, or books."

-School Library Journal

"As Gracie walks home from school, a book falls from her backpack. A well-meaning elephant finds it, sniffs the book’s words right up his trunk, and sneezes them out in a jumble. Animal friends try to put the words back, but the alligator wants to eat them, the seal wants to juggle them, and so on. Like all the best books, this one can be read on several levels, and kids ready for simple deciphering will enjoy Pearson’s anagrams."

-New York Times

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