cover image Mela and the Elephant

Mela and the Elephant

Dow Phumiruk, illus. by Ziyue Chen. Sleeping Bear, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58536-998-0

Phumiruk (Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines) takes readers to the country of her birth in an instructive contemporary fable about kindness, set in a village in Northern Thailand. A girl named Mela sets off to explore the nearby banks of the Ping River, refusing to bring along her younger brother. “What will you give me if I take you?” she asks, but he has nothing. The decision comes back to bite her after she’s swept away by the current and winds up far from home. Mela meets a crocodile, leopard, and monkeys, who ask her the same question she asked her brother when she requests their assistance. She offers them her belongings, which they take—and then abandon her. Eventually, an elephant arrives to help and deliver the book’s central message that “kindness needs no reward.” It’s not a subtle story, but it’s still a potentially useful tool for conversations about generosity, and Chen’s digital artwork, rendered in an array of creamy greens, brings the verdant setting to life. Ages 7–8. Author’s agent: Deborah Warren, East-West Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Mela Bolinao, MB Artists. (Mar.)