Two more books about being true to yourself are out now. LLAMA GLAMARAMA focuses on Larry the Llama who loves to dance (shhhh!) and FREE TO BE ELEPHANT ME follows a small elephant named Num-Num who discovers his Me-ness and inspires all around him. Both are geared towards pre-school and early elementary readers, and both are expressive options for read-aloud.
Llama Glamarama, written by Simon James Green and illustrated by Garry Parsons, is a glorious, flamboyant, rainbow-bright picture book about learning to share who you are and realizing that everyone also has something different and special about themselves. Larry loves to dance, but llamas are well-behaved and calm, so he hides his passion from even his closest llama friends. After leaving home and discovering a place where everyone dances and loves bright colors, Larry returns and lets his friends know that he loves to dance. To his surprise, each of his friends has a secret of their own — and everyone is happy to finally fully be who they are! Of course, they celebrate with a rollicking dance party.
Free to Be Elephant Me, written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees, is just as delightful, but it has a more poignant journey to the celebration of self. Every young elephant must display their talents for an elephant name bestowed by the elephant king, Elephant Mighty. Everyone else seems to know exactly what their special talent is — except for Num-Num. The cruel king ends up naming Num-Num “Elephant Nothing-At-All,” and the little elephant moves far away. Away from tradition and expectations, little Num-Num finds friends quickly thanks to his kindness and generosity. With confidence his new friends help bolster, Num-Num returns home and announces that he is naming himself Elephant Me, and his declaration that “Being YOU is ENOUGH” brings the king to tears. All the animals then celebrate with…you guessed it, a rollicking dance party.
Both picture books have colorful, action-packed pages filled with animals and myriad details for children to discover. Despite the similar messages, the books are more complimentary than repetitive. Llama Glamarama, with its rainbow theme and allusions to Donna Summer and Pride, has a positive LGBTQ+ slant. Free to Be Elephant Me is more about feeling inadequate and realizing that our traditional accomplishments are not equal to our worth. Children and caregivers will enjoy them both!
In blues, browns, and greys, punctuated with the occasional bright red, TEN ANIMALS IN ANTARCTICA by Moira Courtturns a simple counting book into a world of cold, windy, seemingly barren discovery. The descriptive list that brings up animals like leopard seals, orcas, krill, and even snow petrels with a depth of adjectives for the animals as well as the landscape. Children will love noticing the spots on the seals, the many legs and appendages of the krill, and the jagged teeth on the blackfin icefish. (Hint: They don’t all have the same amount of teeth, so it’s a counting bonus!)
The illustrations are collages of all different sizes, and Court’s ability to help the animals express anthropomorphic emotions which will appeal to the target audience of 2-5 year olds. Highly Recommended.
SUMMERTIME SLEEPERS: Animals that Estivate by Melissa Stewart will introduce readers to animals that sleep all throughout the summer. Including butterflies, crabs, fish, snails, and even a hedgehog, the variety of animals that choose to chill out during the hot summer months is varied and surprising. Did YOU know that ladybugs estivated? Well, now you do!
Aimed at early elementary, the picture book provides layered information about whether animals estivate solo or in groups, where they are found, how they find their sleeping spaces, and why they sleep during the hotter, dryer months. Some standout details include the Leopard Gecko’s ability to get energy from fat stored in its tail and the Pixie Frog’s habit of eating its homemade cocoon for some immediate energy.
The Illustrations are mainly in muted colors, appropriate for estivating, and they are split into two parts. In full color, illustrator Sarah S. Brannen shows readers the animals in their chosen estivation location. The ladybugs are shown clustered within a cluster of leaves, and the killifish leave then water to hide together inside a damp log. Also included for each animal is a black and white drawing that shows details as well as life-size depictions of the smaller animals. The full name, scientific name, size, and common location is also included.
More detail about the animals and both the author’s and illustrator’s notes are included at the end of Summertime Sleepers, as well as some additional sources for intrepid readers. This is the perfect book for the start to warmer weather!
This non-fiction picture book, WE ARE STILL HERE!, is subtitled Native American Truths Everyone Should Know, and the book makes sure the reader knows them by the end. Written by Traci Sorell in the structure of elementary student presentations, the book educates us on topics often glossed over in elementary school and beyond. Each section concludes with the refrain, “We Are Still Here!” reminding us that this history is still very much alive and unfolding.
From the first page, unfair policies and broken treaties are introduced and discussed. Each topic is written clearly and with the late elementary reader in mind. Policies like Assimilation, Allotment, Relocation precede the later sections of Tribal Activism, Self-Determination, and the fight for Religious Freedom. The end result ensures that children will feel hopeful and empowered to share what they have learned.
The illustrations by Frané Lessac compliment the text by adding not just visualization but meaning. The facing pages focused on Termination, for example, include text that discuss betrayal of treaties by the US Government, and the illustration contrasts Menominee Nation land for sale, and presumed purchasers fishing from a rowboat, as members of the Menominee hold signs demanding justice. The page about Language Revival shows a classroom of children learning their native languages, and the Cherokee Syllabary, along with Sequoyah, its inventor, on the board.
The details within the pages are supplemented by additional information on the 12 topics, including a timeline and glossary. A caregiver unfamiliar with the topics will appreciate reading the end pages in the book prior to sharing it with a child; there are sure to be questions.