• In The Shadow Of An Elephant

    First impressions count. They are (for me) seldom wrong. However, like a painting on the wall, a second, closer look can often enhance if not alter those first gut reactions. Closer inspection often reveals hitherto unseen beauties secreted among shadows laden with meaning. This is precisely why I adore picture books.

    My first impression of Georgie Donaghey’s, In the Shadow of an Elephant was that it was an immense story; a picture book attempting to embrace a life story as boundless as the African Savannah, just as brutal and beautiful. Even the magnificent front cover of Lualani the elephant required a full cover wrap to encompass her complete gorgeous form.

    Then I took the book home and read it quietly. I read it aloud to my teen daughter. I read it again, alone. Each reading became more and more emotional as the fullness of the story swept over me and somehow the largeness of this tale found a perfect fit within its picture book confines, and within my heart.

    Lualani is an adorable baby elephant who enjoys her baby elephant life with her herd and her ever-present mumma until one terrible night when her world rips apart following a merciless poachers’ attack. Alone and bereft, she is taken in by Jabari and his Papa who coax Lualani into loving life again, teaching her ‘how to be an elephant.’

    Together they grow, sing and dance and again, morn after Jabari’s papa dies. And, just as elephants are wont to do, Lualani returns Jabari’s love with patience and understanding, salving his grief and cherishing every moment of their time together; ‘dancing in each other’s shadows’ until life’s curtains draw close.

    In the Shadow of an Elephant is a sweeping tale, an epic story of beginnings and endings, of love and the unrelenting qualities of the cycle of life. Donaghey’s lyrical prose is charged with emotion yet is never excessive or cloying. It tells Lualani’s life story with just the right amount of colour and sentiment. It is because we can relate to the feelings of loss and grief that each cleverly chosen word becomes so emotionally amplified, giving us a fuller sense of the depth of friendship Lualani and Jabari share.

    The other notable thing of greatness this book possesses is the artwork. Sandra Svergnini’s pencil lined drawings are exquisite, pulsing with life and texture. The limited colour palette against greyscale drawings works a treat, highlighting the significant parts of each illustration without ever compromising focus. Patterned page bands simultaneously reflect these highlights and the colours of the Savannah.

    There is so much heart in each of Lualani’s facial expressions that you cannot fail to feel her agonising despair, her soaring joy. This story is a true marriage of words and pictures that works to elicit compassion, empathy and thankfulness.

    Despite its magnitude or perhaps because of it, In The Shadow of an Elephant is delivered with great grace and gentleness making it an obvious classroom go-to to aid discussions about animal welfare, namely the problem of poaching in Africa as well as friendship, animal human bonds and finding the light in the darkest moments of despair. If I had to offer one suggestion to enhance this book, it would be to increase its hardback format to a greater size to match the story’s undeniable presence.

    Highly recommended for middle primary readers and lovers of elephants.

    See the original review and visit Dimity Powell's blog

    Dimity Powell's website: www.dimitypowell.com

     

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  • Lulu

    At first glance, life on the icy floes may seem appealing. (Unless you reside in SE Queensland as I do with no real concept of what cold is until you have to live through ‘an unseasonably cold winter’ with little more than a cotton tee-shirt and a pair of bed socks). In Lulu’s world, there is more ice than you can shake an Eskimo at and ‘mountains of fish’ to sate the largest appetite. What more could a young polar bear desire? Yet like many of us closeted in the everyday cosiness of the familiar, Lulu harbours dreams and a hankering to fulfil them.

    Lulu’s name ribbons across the sweetly simple cover of Georgie Donaghey’s debut picture book, Lulu. Along with illustrator, Ann-Marie Finn, Donaghey has created a tale that will strike at least two chords with many young readers aged three and above: the need to chase one’s desires no matter how ambitious and dancing.

    Expounding these themes, Donaghey uses carefully nurtured verse to draw the reader along with Lulu who sets off alone in pursuit of her dream of performing on the big stage. It’s not really a case of running away, rather running to somewhere. Pirouetting on the snow for her Arctic friends just doesn’t cut it for her anymore and in true grass-is-greener style, or in this case, the lights-are-brighter-than-the-aurora-borealis style, Lulu eventually conquers her ambitions, finds her place on stage and performs for many seasons in the big city.

    It’s a life filled with glamour and fame, highbrow audiences and gratifying reviews but sadly not with true friends. Turns out, the ice is greener after all and eventually the call of home lures Lulu back.

    Donaghey does well to point out to young readers that it’s okay to have dreams and great aspirations. We don’t always attain our goals, but sometimes, if we want them hard enough, dreams do come true. Lulu was lucky enough to experience the realisation of her strongest desires but also to realise that her most steadfast believers, her friends would always be there waiting for her no matter how far away her dreams took her. This conveys a positive message of security for children, stressing the importance of being self-assured.

     Finns’ considered colour choices for the illustrations are uncomplicated revealing mood, time and place with minimal clutter. White space replicates the vast pristine landscape of Lulu’s home with subtle colour shifts and blends from polar blues and whites to snowflake- pretty sunset yellows used to maximum effect on what could have been a monochromatic environment to illustrate. Little blips of pink provide contrast and encourage little eyes to focus on Lulu, the true star of the show.

    With its soft matt cover (in this paperback edition), comfortable rhythm, and pleasing artwork it is hard not to be warmed by this story set on the ice.

     

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  • In The Shadow Of An Elephant

    Lualani is a baby elephant that lives with her family on the African plains. 

    At night she sleeps cuddled into her mother. During the day she stands in her mother’s shadow as protection from the burning sun.

    It is night when the sharp sounds split the calm and force the herd to scatter. Lualani is left alone.  

    She is found by the boy Jabari and his father, and taken to a place of safety to be fed and cared for. But Lualani longs for her mother until she realizes Mumma won’t be coming back.

    Trust is built and a strong bond is formed between the elephant and the two humans. Their shadows become one until a tragedy occurs and the tables are turned. Now Lualani is the comforter, and the boy the broken-hearted.

    When time and space separate the two friends, they both know that they will be reunited again at some future stage.

    This is a delicate story, beautifully told about the hunt and slaughter of African elephants by poachers. This central theme is revealed in a non-confronting way through subtle allusion.

    The  secondary theme of the strong friendship between animal and Man is the maintaining wall built around the poaching reference, as is the fragility of life, and the protection of wildlife.

    Sandra Servergnini’s exquisite illustrations in pencil and watercolour sit as light as air on the page in cohesion with the gentle tone of the text.  Her portrayal of the separation of mother and baby projected on a dark background effectively relays the devastation felt by the two elephants. Decorative African trim at the bottom of selected pages adds that something extra. These same colours are the only ones used in all the illustrations. The rest is grey against white. The fly pages reflect intimate images replicated from inside the book of Lualani and Jabari together.

    Original Review: www.kids-bookreview.com/2019/08/review-in-shadow-of-elephant

     

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