Elefantastic!: A Story of Magic in 5 Acts: Light Verse on a Heavy Subject

Chronicle. Mar. 2022. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452176819.
K-Gr 2–A captured baby elephant is trained as a circus attraction and then after many years of service taken to a preserve. Sadly, this controversial subject, despite the gentle presentation, is further complicated by Yolen’s use of text. Almost every page supplies a nonword to explain what Helquist’s illustrations so clearly depict. These words begin with “ELE,” or “ELEPH” in all caps, so a baby elephant trapped in a camouflaged net because of hunger is “ELEPH-ATE.” The art shows the baby bound, flown, fattened, and the text is “ELEPH-BOUND,” ELEPH-FLOWN,” “ELEPH-FATTENED.” and so on. It’s confusing and pointless; this unsuccessful word game was inspired by the life of David Balding, a wealthy man, who, in the 1980s, wanted a pet elephant and performed with her until he didn’t.
VERDICT A nonfiction treatment of Balding’s story sounds compelling, but this version is not.

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