Stories from the Trunk: Elephant's Story by Tracy Campbell Pearson
THE DAY GRACIE LOST HER FAVORITE BOOK, ELEPHANT FOUND IT.
Elephant is curious, but he has no idea what a book is for. He gives it an investigative sniff with his long trunk, and...
OOPS! THE WORDS WENT UP HIS TRUNK!
An elephant's trunk can do amazing things, but it is not the perfect place for words. The words tickle his trunk unbearably and soon the inevitable happens.
But the "once upon a time" of the words sneeze out in a jumble of letters landing everywhere. Elephant doesn't know how to put the letters back into words, and his friends are no help.
Seal balances some on his nose, but only manages the word SPIN. Monkey tosses them around, but gets THROW. Alligator tries to take a bite and only produces CHEW.
The others are worse than no help at all. Elephant knows those are the wrong words and puts his long nose to work, snorfing the letters back up again to keep them safe. Then, for additional security, he sits down on the book and waits.
Gracie comes along and spots her favorite story book. But when she pries it out from under Elephant and opens it, something is very wrong.
"WHERE ARE MY WORDS?" SHE ASKED.
Elephant looks guilty. Gracie has an idea where the missing letters are, and a few tickles bring on a very productive sneeze. Gracie gets her letters back, and now she has an inspiration for a novel arrangement of them to tell a new story. Not only can she reload her favorite book with a story, but she and Elephant put the letters together to tell a story about a girl and and an elephant who come up with some new words to tell their own story, in Tracy Campbell Pearson's Elephant's Story (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2013).
In a new twist on the opening premise of the popular Martha Speaks series, Pearson's enticing illustrations pretty much tell the story all by themselves. Her fantasy-cloaked animal characters, clearly an African elephant and other zoo critter friends, are playful stand-ins for youngsters confronting the task of putting letters together into speech, and Gracie, with her jaunty upright topknot, peppermint striped tights, and lavender-dotted backpack, is just the girl to take on the task. With a practiced eye and a creative mind, she immediately sets out to make something personal out of the raw materials of language, to tell a new once-upon-a-time tale of "Gracie, who made a new friend. His name was Elephant." Pearson's charming endpapers reinforce the alphabet with drawings of Elephant obligingly contorting himself into the shape of the 26 letters. As the New York Times takes pains to note, "Like all the best books, this one can be read on several levels, and kids ready for simple deciphering will enjoy Pearson's anagrams."
Elephant's Story plays well with Tad Hills' How Rocket Learned to Read, Rocket Writes a Story, and especially Rocket's Mighty Words. (Read my reviews here.)