Elephants: A Charming and Important Picture Book for Young Kids

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

One of the most important things we can do for young kids is to read to them - and teach about the world, through those books. One such book that I just love is called Elephants, a simple, loving, and beautiful picture book that teaches about this incredible animal, as well as elephant conservation. Written by Rebeccca Heller (you'll remember our interview with her about her book Falling Rock, which teaches about  Native American history and culture), and illustrated by Suzie Mason, it's a perfect gift - and read - for the children in your life. Highly recommended!

Elephants: A Charming and Important Picture Book for Young Kids

We were lucky enough to catch up with Heller, and ask about her book, inspiration, illustration, elephants (of course!), and more. Here's what she had to say...

Please tell us about your new picture book, Elephants...
Elephants is a picture book for elephant lovers of all ages. Through the simple story and charming illustrations, we follow baby elephant through his day as he swims, splashes, and trumpets. The colors were chosen to be bright and engaging, creating the fun, beautiful world of the baby elephant for children to explore. There is also a page of elephant facts to encourage young readers and listeners to learn more. But perhaps most importantly, the book aims to raise awareness without unnerving children about elephant conservation and protection, all while raising money for the Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

Elephants: A Charming and Important Picture Book for Young Kids

What inspired you to write this book?
I feel strongly about elephant conservation and protection. My heart was breaking to read news of elephants being killed for their ivory tusks, and I felt powerless to do anything about it. As a writer, it came to me to share my love in book form. I started out by writing a rather silly story, but it just wasn't working. Luckily, I had the foresight to let the images speak for themselves with minimal story. I think what people like most about elephants is their strength and beauty. They have so many characteristics that they share with humans that people young and old can really relate. Through the images of elephants doing what they do, we are immediately engaged and can see ourselves in them. If we can foster that connection, then we have no choice but to protect them, which is the ultimate goal.

I love the illustrations! Can you please share more about the artist?
Suzie Mason and I met online because I was absolutely drawn to her artwork (pun intended). Because she is a freelance digital illustrator working from her little house in the Cotswolds, England, and I live in Los Angeles, California, we have never actually met in person. She took to the project immediately and her illustrations are better than I could have ever imagined. If you love her as much as I do, you can check out more of her work here: http://waffleandbear.wixsite.com/illustrator or on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/waffleandbear/

Elephants: A Charming and Important Picture Book for Young Kids
How was the artwork completed?
The illustrations for Elephants began life as digital sketches from photos of elephants in the wild.  The sketches were refined by simplifying the shapes of the elephants until the drawings were stylized, whilst still accurately incorporating the elephants' distinctive characteristics. The final sketches are an easily recognizable, characterful, and fun elephant illustration. 

The sketches were hand-drawn in Photoshop. Each shape in the illustration, whether it is an elephant's ear or a leaf, started as a basic colored shape. Shading and details, painted in several different digital brushes, were layered on top of the block of color in turn, creating the distinctive textured look.

A portion of the proceeds from the book go to the Amboseli Trust for Elephants - tell me more!
Amboseli Trust for Elephants is a non-profit organization that aims to ensure the long-term conservation and welfare of Africa's elephants. ATE is the legal entity that administers the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, the longest-running study of wild elephants in the world. Since 1972, they have followed the lives of the Amboseli elephants; the results of their research has profoundly altered the way we think about, conserve, and manage elephant populations. For more than four decades, their presence has helped ensure the survival of the elephants and the Amboseli ecosystem. More broadly, ATE aims to ensure the long-term conservation and welfare of Africa's elephants in the context of human needs and pressures through scientific research, training, community outreach, public awareness, and advocacy.

Elephants: A Charming and Important Picture Book for Young Kids

Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Elephants is the first in a series of children's books on endangered or threatened animals. Books in the works include Dolphins, Whales, and Polar Bears with proceeds going to non-profits that support their survival.


Click the photo to purchase Elephants at Barnes & Noble: