I picked up Strictly No Elephants (2015, Simon & Shuster) written by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo at The Storybook Shoppe in South Carolina a few weeks ago. Recommend by one of the lovely ladies who worked at the shop, Strictly No Elephants is a great book for toddlers and younger elementary school students.
I love reviewing debut children’s picture books, and Strictly No Elephants is Mantchev’s first book for children. She does not disappoint. A heartwarming story about the importance of accepting others, the book starts with a young boy and his elephant out for a walk. When the boy and his elephant arrive at the Pet Club Day, however, they realize that elephants are not welcomed. Distraught, the little boy comes across a girl and her skunk. They have also been banned from Pet Club Day. What develops is a beautiful solution built around acceptance and resilience.
Yoo’s illustrations are AMAZING. I love the rainstorm page. It is vibrant, and the colors really pop. I also enjoy the voice Mantchev creates. She is able to tell – with a wonderful blend of humor and seriousness – a story that can be read on multiple levels. What on first glance is a story about a boy who cannot bring his elephant to Pet Club Day becomes a complex story about accepting those who are different than we are. The illustrations showcase a variety of races and genders in a way that normalizes diversity. Appearing to be a book about an uninvited elephant, Strictly No Elephants can spark discussions about inclusion and acceptance for humans, too.
Here are some teaching ideas for Strictly No Elephants:
(1) I saw a recent digital short film the other day called The Present, an award-winning Ask students to discuss the similarities and differences between the film and Strictly No Elephants. This also brings in the idea of multimodal texts and having students analyze non-print texts.
(2) Push students to think about how Strictly No Elephants relates to humans. Is the story really only about an unwanted elephant and skunk? What might the animals represent?
Let me know what you think of Strictly No Elephants in the comments below!