School Library Journal
November 1, 2004
PreS-Gr 2-A young elephant is new to town and anxious about starting school. On her first day, she wears her grandmother's fancy "good luck hat," causing a bully named Belinda and her friends to dub her "Ella the Ella-gant." When Belinda slips on the safety wall that surrounds the schoolyard and protects the students from a very big drop, Ella attempts a rescue only to slip and fall herself. Fortunately, the lucky hat acts as a parachute, transporting Ella and Belinda to safety. The next day, the entire class, bullies included, sports fancy hats, and a message on the chalkboard reads, "We love Ella." With its charming and whimsical cartoons and simple design, this offering seems like a picture book from an earlier era. Ella is a likable character, and children will be able to relate to her emotions. Unfortunately, the story is nothing new and the text may be a bit long for some youngsters. Despite these shortcomings, parents who are nostalgic for Jean de Brunhoff's The Story of Babar (Random, 1937) will appreciate the D'Amicos's kinder, gentler elephant tale.-Rachel G. Payne, Brooklyn Public Library, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
November 1, 2004
K-Gr. 2. On the Elephant Islands, "hidden by fog so thick no human being has ever found them," shy little elephant Ella, new to town, worries about school and making friends. Ella loves her big red hat, a special gift from Grandma, but wearing it the first day of school brings teasing, especially from big bully Belinda. But when Belinda's antics put her in a dangerous situation, Ella steps in to help--and is surprised to discover that her hat is more special than she thought.\b \b0 Combining a fairy-tale quality with elements in story and setting that will be familiar to children, this has a charming protagonist, as well as lovely, whimsical art, in a soft, rich palette and style that evokes the work of H. A. Rey and recalls Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline 0 in its rows of students clad in identical blue uniforms and "Ecole" written over the school gate. The text is simple, descriptive, and often lively, making a good read-aloud. Listeners will sympathize with Ella's challenges and appreciate the rewards that come from her showing compassion and staying true to herself. --Shelle Rosenfeld Copyright 2004 Booklist
October 4, 2004
Followers of Jean de Brunhoff and Ludwig Bemelmans may experience deja-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 "ecole," 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 m