Saturday, March 25, 2017

Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants

Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants
written by Sandra Markle; illustrated by Fabricio VandenBroeck
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Grandma's thirst stirs a memory of a dry time long ago, when she was a baby like Little Calf. 

In hot and dry Tanzania, Grandma elephant leads the herd as they search for water. The smell of water directs their path. They find water at the river and the animals already there show deference to this mass of mammals. Continuing dry conditions lead to less water in the river so the herd has to move on. The elephants dig holes in the ground and chew juicy plants, but it is not enough. At one point, Little Calf succumbs to the heat and drops. Mother elephant uses her saliva to cool off her child. A desperate measure for desperate times. Grandma's memory is leading the herd to find a watering hole from her childhood. With a loud trumpet, she signals the herd that she has found what she was looking for. At last, there will be enough water for the elephants.

Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants was inspired by the story of a real elephant named Big Mama who led her herd to a new watering hole during a 1994 drought. An author's note gives details about Big Mama and several elephant facts and extra resources are also contained in the back matter.

When I think of examples for young writers to follow, Sandra Markle is one of the authors that comes to mind. Her writing has so many great qualities. For example, I would use the following sentence to showcase building more vivid sentences: "Grandma leads the way through the rosy glow of the fading day." What a visual! There's also great variety in the length of the sentences. Longer sentences are mixed in with shorter ones that are punctuated with action words in capital letters. Markle writes like a conductor leading an orchestra. Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants would be an excellent addition to your narrative writing unit.

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