Ever since I was a little girl, I loved Elephants. Where we lived, an elephant used to come to the streets with the mahout to offer blessings in exchange for coconuts and banana. Elephants as Hindus believe is a symbol of Lord Ganesha.
Lord Ganesha is also my favourite deity in Hindu epics and stories. He is fun, he can be temperamental and he is human in so many ways. Lord Ganesha has been drawn and re-drawn in funny ways across history in the subcontinent – and has so many superpowers that he’ll always be my favourite.
These are just six (did you find all 6?) of the innumerable Ganesha statues and depictions I’ve in my flat.
Elephants as beasts are family-oriented. They are female-led groups and love playing with their kids. They are patient, they remember for long and are empathetic. Peace-loving giants, who love bananas! What’s not like about Elephants?
So when I started writing stories, Elephants started featuring in them. Obviously!
In my first picture book in the UK, Pattan’s Pumpkin, illustrated by Frané Lessac and published by Otter-Barry Books, my earliest imagination was when Pattan returned to the mountains riding an elephant. Illustrator Frané Lessac generously included them in many spreads and elephants are one of the reader favourites in the story.
Listen to Frané talk about her inspirations for the art in this book and the process.
In my much-loved picture book You’re Safe With Me, illustrated by Poonam Mistry and published by Lantana Publishing, I introduced Mama Elephant, the matriarch of the forest. She has wise words for the little baby animals in the forest and reassures them. The image of Mama Elephant cradling the babies in the crook of her trunk was the first image that spurred on the story.
Children and adults alike love colouring in the wonderful illustration by Poonam Mistry during workshops. Download a colouring sheet here to try your own art in Poonam’s style.
And today to celebrate World Elephant Day we have a special treat from Tutti Frutti StoryTime in association with Leeds Libraries. Register to listen to You’re Safe With Me, watch the illustrations be animated and learn to do a craft activity too.
Then I want to tell you about Tiger Troubles. This was a story I had been working on for many years until it got published in 2019. In Tiger Troubles, we have Elephant as one of the animals and in fact the first one, who takes it upon himself to confess and not to get his friends into trouble. Hannah Marks has brought out his character in this lively illustration and throughout the book.
And then of course, when I published the first book of Sona Sharma series – Sona Sharma – Very Best Big Sister, from early on, I wanted to make sure that Sona has a plush toy called Elephant. She might have been gifted other animals but her imaginary best friend is Elephant. In the Sona Books, Elephant is her wise counsel, her listening friend to talk through her anxieties and also quite a character. Elephant I’m told by young readers is quite funny and he has one major obsession – he has not been given a name.
Jen Khatun, the illustrator of the series, created a wonderful activity for children to draw the Elephant from the book. You can download it here!
So, when we asked children in Northern Ireland to draw Elephant with Jen’s guidance and find a name for Elephant and explain their reason, these are some wonderful names they came up with. Note the Indian scripts and references the children have used.
Writing stories about Elephants raises awareness. Beyond loving elephants, I want to help them too. So if you want to find out more about elephant conservation and protection, check out the following resources.
Here are some organisations you can look up, studies you can get more information from and find things you can do within your circle of influences.
|Here is a link from World Elephant Day that gives you specific things you can do to help. https://worldelephantday.org/how-to-help-elephants