Title: 17 Kings and 42 Elephants
Author: Margaret Mahy
Illustrator: Patricia MacCathy
Publisher: Dial Books
Audience: Ages 4-8
Summary: The book is the story of seventeen kings traveling on elephants through the wild. As they travel they sing and their song has an effect on the wild. During their travel we are introduced to all the other wild animals they encounter on this journey (crocodiles, crabs, cranes, pelicans, hippos, tigers, peacocks, flamingos, birds, baboons, and gorillas) and experience how these animals impact and/or interact with these traveling kings.
Literary elements at work in the story: This book is a picture book. As such, the telling of the story, though a rhyming scheme is employed, loses its effect and power without the illustrations. Thus, it will be imperative that the pictures be visible to the listener. The book is normal size so it will need to be used with small groups to ensure the audience can fully see the illustrations.
Children will identify with this artwork. The colors are bright and loud. The illustrations are beautiful and eye catching. You could literally remove the words and the illustrations alone will draw a child in and cause the child to create a story. The artwork is appropriate for a story set in the wild (jungle). Simply, it is believable, though for the target age group that may not be a point of major consideration.
How does the book present gender, race, culture, economic status, abilities/disabilities, age, etc. in the story: The book does a poor job on addressing diversity in race. All seventeen kings are white males. As such, the author and illustrator fail to produce a book that will cross ethnicities and identify with multiple audiences.
Theological patterns for conversation: Pulling any theological perspective from this book will be a stretch, even for the best theologian. However, apart from the words, one could use the illustrations to facilitate discussion around the creation story with kids; particularly the portion of the creation story where God creates animals and sends them before Adam for naming.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Why do you think God created animals?
- Tell me about your favorite animal.
- If you could have been in the Garden and were given the chance to name the animals presented in this book, what would you have named each? Why?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Lorenzo Small.
17 Kings and 42 Elephants by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.