Friday, November 4, 2005

An Elephant in the Backyard

Sobol, Richard. 2004. AN ELEPHANT IN THE BACKYARD. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0525472886. [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]

Set in Tha Klang, Thailand, AN ELEPHANT IN THE BACKYARD is the latest photo essay picture book by Richard Sobol. Engaging text and photos invite children to explore a unique Thailand village where elephants play an active role in the human community. “Like most villages in Thailand, Tha Klang is filled with all kinds of people…But what makes Tha Klang different from other villages is that it has elephants, too. For the children of Tha Klang, elephants are part of their families.” The heroine of AN ELEPHANT IN THE BACKYARD is the village’s most famous elephant, Wan Pen. This special elephant is introduced as the four-legged sister of Jak and Muay. “She is friendly and gentle, happy to walk through the neighborhood with the children riding on her back, stopping to pick up friends who run alongside, eager for a ride.” Full of factual trivia about elephants and Thailand, Sobol shows readers a whole new world where elephants walk on balance beams, play soccer with the local kids, and attend school—elephant school that is! “Her lessons look more like gymnastics class. Even though she weighs as much as a car and has a big fat belly, she learns to balance and walk on narrow boards and steps. She can bow and kneel, dance and shake her butt, and even raise her trunk to say hello or ask for food or drink.”

Combining interesting facts with engaging—almost unbelievable—photos, AN ELEPHANT IN THE BACKYARD is an enjoyable book for kids of all ages. Sobol also provides his readers with additional facts about elephants in his afterward.

Have readers take turns sharing what wild or exotic animals they’d want to have as family pets.

Have readers participate in making a list or chart of all the new facts they learned about elephants.

Other nonfiction books about elephants:
Arnold, Caroline. ELEPHANT. ISBN 0688113451
Da Silva, Maggie. WORKING ELEPHANTS. ISBN 0717290727
Pringle, Laurence. ELEPHANT WOMAN. ISBN 0689801424
Redmond, Ian. EYEWITNESS: ELEPHANT. ISBN 0789465914

By Becky Laney

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