cover image Little Elephants

Little Elephants

Graeme Base. Abrams, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4197-0463-5

Base (Animalia) sets this magical tale in a threatened farm belt, alluding to the American Dust Bowl era and The Wizard of Oz. Jim, an earnest boy in blue overalls, lives with his anxious mother “on a wheat farm, and the risk of plague was never far away.” Fearing that pests will spoil the crop, Jim sadly frees his pet mouse. Later, though, a top-hatted traveler promises Jim “good fortune” and leaves behind a red megaphone; when Jim blows into this horn, he hears “a faraway trumpeting sound.... A shimmering cloud of gray dust wafted away on the breeze.” That night, Jim’s mouse returns, along with happy herd of rabbit-size elephants. Together, the animals bravely battle locusts to save the harvest. Base scatters visual hints throughout the narrative: model biplanes and a photo of a uniformed man suggest Jim’s absent father, and elephant and circus images hint at the origins of the mini-pachyderms. Base’s portraits of human beings can be awkward, but his tiny elephants—who run amok like the bullfrogs in David Wiesner’s Tuesday—are captivating. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)