Zola's Elephant

illus. by Pamela Zagarenski. 40p. HMH. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781328886293.
RedReviewStarPreS-Gr 2—A young girl has a new neighbor named Zola. Both girls' mothers think that they will be fast friends. But our narrator worries, what if Zola already has a best friend? Her imagination takes over when she sees a big box being moved into Zola's house. She's convinced it must contain an elephant, and why would Zola need her, if she already has an elephant with whom to play hide-and-seek, build a clubhouse, and to take bubble baths? The author and illustrator tap into the feelings of insecurities that young children face with the uncertainty of new beginnings. As the young girl frets over all of the reasons that Zola will not need her, Zagarenski captures these imaginings with her trademark illustrations full of crowns, stars, and swirls that sprinkle the page. The colorful, digital and mixed-media illustrations are offset when viewers see Zola's reality full of hard lines, gray palette, and empty space to show the loneliness and sadness that she is actually feeling moving into a new place. Finally, the narrator decides that all the things she imagines Zola having and experiencing are things that she also loves; she braves her feelings and goes to meet Zola. Zagarenski's textured and detailed illustrations will capture children's imaginations, and will have them enthralled as they follow the many smaller animal familiars through the pages.
VERDICT A must-purchase.

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