ELLA: The Elegant Elephant

Carmela D'Amico, Author, Steven D'Amico, Illustrator
Carmela D'Amico, Author, Steven D'Amico, Illustrator . Scholastic/Levine $16.95 (56p) ISBN 978-0-439-62792-4
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-8045-6933-0
Video, VHS Format - 978-0-8045-9707-4
Compact Disc - 978-0-8045-4128-2
Paperback - 978-0-439-87700-8
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-439-87703-9
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Followers of Jean de Brunhoff and Ludwig Bemelmans may experience déjà-vu upon reading the D'Amicos' debut. Ella, a Madeline-ish young elephant, possesses a WWII-era flair and lives in a faraway realm: "Somewhere in the great, wide Indian Ocean lie the Elephant Islands, hidden by a fog so thick that no human being has ever found them." Ella's rocky islands protrude from the ocean like terra-cotta turrets, topped with multicolored minarets. Inside this exotic city, bipedal elephant villagers shop at whitewashed, clay-roofed stores like a "Tuskery" and peanut emporium. On her first day at the island "école ," Ella wears a navy-blue uniform like her peers, but chooses to sport her grandmother's "good luck hat," a floaty flame-orange number that trumps her classmates' austere caps: "The teacher asked if she wouldn't mind sitting... in the back row, so she wouldn't block the other students' view of the chalkboard." Ella's fashion statement soon attracts a bully's attention. Only at recess, when a mishap atop the city wall reveals the hat's magical, parachute-like properties, does Ella achieve acceptance. The memorable characters and setting transform a familiar tale of nonconformity; Steven D'Amico's soft, sinuous colored-pencil line and plush palette recall H.A. Rey's illustrations. The Elephant Islands would make a promising locale for future adventures, and the appealing Ella—who's simply drawn yet unique, like Charles M. Schulz's Woodstock—could easily adapt to new stories and multimedia. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

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