Title: Mela and the Elephant
Author: Dow Phumiruk
Illustrator: Ziyue Chen
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press, April 15th, 2018
Themes: kindness, empathy, Thai customs, Thailand, fables
Mela set out to explore the banks of Ping River near her home. Her little brother folowed to the edge of the yard, hoping she’d take him along.
“What will you give me if I take you?”
He had nothing to offer. “Then you stay home,” Mela announced.
Mela decides to go exploring and when her little brother wants to tag along, she refuses because he has nothing to offer her in return. sets out to explore the river outside her village but quickly ends up in trouble when her little boat is swept downstream and into the dense jungle. She encounters a crocodile, a leopard, and some monkeys, offering each a gift return for helping her find her way home but the animals snatch up their rewards without helping Mela back to her village. Just when she’s about to give up, an elephant shows Mela that kindness is its own reward.
Why I like this book:
The strength of this book is the rich natural and cultural Thai setting paired with the anticipation even young readers will have in quickly understanding that the animals are going to make off with Mela’s gifts and leave her stranded in the jungle with night falling. This sort of prediction works so well, and having seen the beautiful front cover and heard the title, children will be anticipating the Elephant’s arrival and gift of kindness. Both author and illustrator draw the reader into the dense jungle scenes and while the scenario of being lost in the jungle is foreboding both the illustrations and text maintain a sweetness.
This is a welcome text for our diversity shelves.
This picture book embraces authentic Thai customs and includes an author’s note with information on history, geography and more customs of Thailand. It would be perfect for a unit where children get to pick and study another country/culture very different from their own, or a unit on fables.
This fable emphasizes the importance of kindness in our families and with others and fits well with the social emotional learning curriculum.
Pinterest has a fabulous list of random acts of kindness activities to use in the classroom.
Nat Geo Kids Asian elephant facts.
Nat Geo Kids Thailand facts.
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.