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Review of How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild

How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild
by Katherine Roy; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Macaulay/Roaring Brook    48 pp.
9/17    978-1-62672-178-4    $18.99

A baby African elephant is born and immediately begins developing the important skills necessary to survive in the wild. In detailed accounts that integrate descriptions of elephant anatomy, behavior, and development, Roy carefully explains how the baby learns to walk, communicate, listen, and use her trunk. Diagrams and sketches illustrate interior and exterior organs, including the remarkably versatile trunk (a multipurpose tool — likened to a Swiss Army Knife — that “helps a baby elephant eat, breathe, smell, scratch, sound, gesture, dig, and drink”). All this learning takes place in the family herd, where female elephants collaborate to raise their young and pass down generations of knowledge. Roy’s dynamic illustrations of the elephants are masterful: bold strokes that provide definition to the wrinkled skin of the elephants also skillfully convey movement, and the perspective is mostly from the level of the young calf, low to the ground and close to the towering legs of protective adults. The back matter includes an author’s note detailing Roy’s visit to Kenya to learn about elephants and threats to their existence (with appended map) as well as selected sources, both print and film.

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Danielle J. Ford About Danielle J. Ford

Danielle J. Ford is a Horn Book reviewer and an associate professor of Science Education at the University of Delaware.

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