About the Holiday
While today’s holiday was established in 1996 by Mission Media and its owner Wayne Hepburn because of Hepburn’s love for elephants, the day has garnered official recognition and deserves wide acknowledgement. These gentile, giant animals need our protection from environmental and human dangers. To celebrate today’s holiday visit a zoo or animal preserve, watch a documentary on elephants, or consider donating to their cause.
Strictly No Elephants
Written by Lisa Mantchev | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
A little boy, his adorable pet elephant by his side, kneels on his bed and gazes out the window at the brownstones across the street. There he sees other kids with their—more conventional—pets: a bird, a cat, a fish, and dogs. “The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in,” the boy reveals. Every day the boy takes his elephant for a walk, but even in this common pet-owner activity, the boy and the elephant show their special relationship. The elephant is thoughtful—protecting the boy with an umbrella on rainy days—and the boy is considerate—carrying his elephant over cracks in the sidewalk that frighten it. Why? Because “that’s what friends do: lift each other over the cracks.”
On this particular day the boy winds a red scarf around his elephant’s neck and joins the parade of kids on their way to Number 17 where the Pet Club meets. The elephant is reluctant, but the boy is reassuring, even carrying his pet on his back the last few feet. “‘It’ll be fine,’” he says. But when they reach the apartment, there’s a sign on the door that reads “Strictly No Elephants.” There’s even a picture of a crossed out elephant on the sign.
The elephant understands all too well and leads the boy back onto the sidewalk, now ignoring the cracks. “‘That’s what friends do: brave the scary things for you,’” the boy says. The day has suddenly become rainy, and they are caught on the sidewalk without an umbrella. Taking shelter under an awning, the two find a little girl holding her pet skunk. “‘Did you try to go to the Pet Club meeting too?’” she asks. “‘Yes,’” the boy says, “‘But they don’t allow elephants.’”
While the sign may not explicitly forbid skunks, the little girl says that the other members didn’t want to play with her and her skunk either. Wisely, the boy tells her “‘They don’t know any better.’” The elephant reaches out its trunk toward the skunk with the girl’s reassurance that he doesn’t stink. The two new friends decide to start their own pet club and head down the sidewalk to find a venue. The boy makes sure that his elephant follows because friends “‘never leave anyone behind.’”
On the way the boy, girl, elephant, and skunk encounter a whole crowd of kids with unusual pets—a tiny giraffe, a mini narwhal, an armadillo, a bat, a hedgehog, and a penguin. They come to a park, complete with tree house, that is perfect for their club. The kids and pets eagerly adopt their new play space—swinging on the tire swing, waddling around the balcony, exploring the roof, playing tag, reading, and more. The boy quickly does the most important thing of all: he paints a new sign for the clubhouse door. “Strictly No Strangers, No Spoilsports ALL ARE WELCOME” it reads. And if you need directions to the club, the boy’s tiny elephant will give them to you “‘because that’s what friends do.’”
Lisa Mantchev has written a story addressing the types of isolation and rejection that kids (and adults) can face sometimes because of a single perceived difference in an uplifting and productive way. With gentle honesty and thoughtfulness, Mantchev invites kids—on both sides of this “elephant in the room” issue to consider their actions, attitudes, and responses to others. As Mantchev reveals, more inclusiveness leads to more understanding and better relationships. Her lyrical language and sweet reminders of “what friends do” elevate this tribute to camaraderie and companionship and make it a story kids will want to hear again and again.
Taeeun Yoo’s adorable illustrations of the boy, his tiny pet elephant, and the other animal-and-owner pairs are irresistible. Any reader would want pets as cute and adaptable as these, which may lead to questions about why and how they could be excluded from the club. As the boy and his elephant are turned away from the Pet Club door, the day turns dark and stormy. The two-page spread is rendered in somber shades, except for the little boy with his yellow-striped shirt and red scarf, the elephant sporting a matching red scarf, and the soon-to-be-met African-American girl who wears a red and yellow-striped dress, emphasizing the connections between these two children. The final pages in which the new friends meet and play together are joyful, inviting all readers to “join the club.”
Strictly No Elephants gives readers so much to see, think about, and discuss. The book is a must for school and classroom libraries and would be a very welcome addition to children’s home bookshelves.
Ages 4 – 8
Simon & Schuster, 2015 | ISBN 978-1481416474
Discover Lisa Mantchev’s books for children, young adults, and adults on her website.
See a gallery of books by Taeeun Yoo on her website!
Elephant Appreciation Day Activity
Who wouldn’t like a tiny elephant for a pet?! With this easy craft you can make your own little pal to keep you company.
- Printable Elephant Ears Template
- 1¾-inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
- ¾ -inch wooden spool with center hole, available at craft stores
- Gray craft paint
- Chunky gray yarn
- Gray felt, 1 8 ½ x 11 piece
- Paint brush
- Black fine-tip marker
- Hot glue gun or fabric glue
To Make the Ears
- Print the Elephant Ears Template
- Trace and cut out the large and small ears
To Make the Body
- Paint the spools with the gray paint, let dry
- Glue the tab on the ears to the body of the spool to secure, allowing the ears to stick out on either side of one flat end of the spools
- Wind the gray yarn back and forth around the spool, creating several layers of thickness
- When the body is as thick as you desire, cut the end and secure with glue
To Make the Trunk
- Cut a 2 x 4-inch piece of felt for the large elephant; 1/2 x 2-inch piece for small elephant
- Roll tightly and secure with glue
- Feed one end of the roll into the hole in the middle of the spool
- Cut to desired length
To Make the Tail
- Twist a small length of yarn and push it into the hole on the back of the spool
- With the marker draw eyes and a mouth on the face
Picture Book Review