The Masterwork of a Painting Elephant

The Masterwork of a Painting Elephant

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by Michelle Cuevas, Ed Young
     
 

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Ever since he was an infant, Pigeon Jones has lived on the back of an artistically gifted white elephant named Birch. Birch is a loving father, but that doesn't stop Pigeon from wondering about the human parents who abandoned him. Birch has dreams, too—of being a well-known artist, and of finding the acrobat he fell in love with while they performed together

Overview

Ever since he was an infant, Pigeon Jones has lived on the back of an artistically gifted white elephant named Birch. Birch is a loving father, but that doesn't stop Pigeon from wondering about the human parents who abandoned him. Birch has dreams, too—of being a well-known artist, and of finding the acrobat he fell in love with while they performed together in a circus years ago.

And so, on Pigeon's tenth birthday, their search for fame and lost loves begins. Pigeon and Birch paint their way across the world, dodging an evil circus ringleader, freeing zoo animals, and befriending singing hoboes along the way. But when they reach the end of their journey, Birch must master the most difficult art of all: letting go and allowing his beloved Pigeon to stand on his own two feet.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—A preposterous premise is the underpinning for this delightful, touching fable, narrated by big-eared Pigeon Jones, a boy who has spent his life on the back of a white Indian elephant with artistic talent. Abandoned as a baby on the steps of an orphanage by his distracted parents, Pigeon soon crawls out of his basket and is found and nurtured by Birch, formerly of the circus and, recently, the car-wash business. Pigeon pines for his lost family and Birch makes pictures with deep meaning while dreaming of his lost love, an acrobat who ran away to Paris with another acrobat. All goes well until it is time for the boy to end homeschooling and enter fifth grade while still on the elephant's back. Pigeon is taunted at school but imagination and love carry him along and he even finds his first love, Darling Clementine. For his 10th birthday, Pigeon convinces Birch that they should travel to Paris to seek the elephant's acrobat and recognition for his art, as well as Pigeon's own parents. Adventures ensue, featuring singing hoboes on a freight train, capture and escape at the Bronx Zoo, artistic discovery in Hollywood, international fame, and much more. The story is told with poignancy, lyricism, and humor, and its format includes simple, sometimes unfinished-looking pen-and-ink sketches, a chart, a pie graph of "elephant jobs," a musical score, and a chapter of postcard messages. This magical, moving novel is sure to be enjoyed by fans of Daniel Pinkwater, Margery Williams's The Velveteen Rabbit, and the tales of Kate DiCamillo.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429969802
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
10/11/2011
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
1,019,123
File size:
913 KB
Age Range:
7 - 11 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt


ONE
But He Has Such Big Ears
 

My name is Pigeon Jones, and I was raised by a painting Indian elephant. This is how my adventure started: one day when I was an infant in my crib, a pigeon flew into our house through the window. This is not, as you may be thinking, why I am named Pigeon. The bird did, however, cause my mama to become quite upset.
“Get that filthy bird out of here,” she shouted. “Don’t let it touch the baby.”
My papa didn’t see the bird at first, but he stayed calm, sat still, and whispered under his breath, “Just be quiet now. Wait till she lands.”
The pigeon was fat. And clumsy. She landed on the side of my crib and flapped her wings so hard she got tangled in the solar-system mobile overhead. Several planets went flying. Venus fell into my crib with a thud and missed my head by only a few inches.
My mama screamed, “Grab that stupid bird.”
The bird didn’t seem to mind being called stupid, and when Papa approached, she climbed onto his outstretched arm one foot at a time.
Papa put the bird on a tree branch outside the window, and that crazy bird began to sing. Loudly. And not very well.
My mama and papa came over and stared down at me. The sun filtered through the leaves on the tree and dappled the light, making continents on my skin. I wasn’t crying. In truth I was enjoying the show from my crib.
“The baby kept calm through the entire commotion,” Papa said thoughtfully. “Through the flapping and the flying and a planet almost falling on his head. I wonder if he can hear?”
“But he has such big ears,” Mama gasped. “How could anyone not hear with those enormous ears?” It was true. I had ridiculously big ears. Huge. Gigantic. They looked like someone had taken dinner plates and attached them to the sides of my head. I was, in this way, quite unlike my parents, who both had remarkably small ears. I think this made it hard for them to hear each other, so they’d end up yelling most of the time.

But the doctor confirmed that there was nothing at all wrong with my big ears. My papa got more and more interested in the way the world looked and sounded to me, such a calm and unconcerned baby. Every time he heard or saw something interesting, he’d say, “I wonder how the baby”—they hadn’t yet given me a name—“would sense that?” and write it down. He had long lists all over the house describing things like how it sounds when someone steps on dry leaves or when a dog laps water or the unexpected noise when a child’s toy drops in the next room. His plan was to ask me all these things as soon as I was old enough to talk. Of course, as with many plans in life, by the time I could talk, most of the lists would have turned yellow and been forgotten.
And if you think my papa sounds a bit strange, then you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting my mama. After I was born she became possessed by a heart-racing, hand-wringing sense of worry that something awful might befall me.
“He’ll get eaten by a tiger,” she’d cry. “Or hit by a bus. I just know it.” She had daily panic attacks and would have to put her head between her legs and breathe into a paper bag.
She worried and worried, until one day, overcome by tears, she was sent to bed for an indefinite amount of time by the doctor.
“Perhaps there is someone to help you care for the baby,” the doctor suggested.
“I suppose we have no other option,” Papa said sadly. “We must do this for the baby’s sake.” And so, that very night, my mama and papa tucked me into a basket, placed me on the steps of an orphanage, and left town, never to return. Attached to my blanket was a note that read:
PLEASE GIVE ME A HOME.
(AND, IF IT IS NOT TOO MUCH TROUBLE, A NAME.)
LOVE,
THE BABY

 
Text copyright © 2011 by Michelle Cuevas

Meet the Author

Michelle Cuevas graduated from Williams College and holds a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Virginia, where she received the Henry Hoyns Fellowship. She lives in Berkshire County, Massachusetts.

Ed Young is the Caldecott Award-winning illustrator and writer of many children's books. He lives in Westchester County, New York, with his two daughters.


Michelle Cuevas graduated from Williams College and holds a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Virginia, where she received the Henry Hoyns Fellowship. She lives in Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
Ed Young was born in China and spent his childhood in Shanghai. The illustrator of many books for children, he has received numerous awards, including a Caldecott Medal for his book Lon Po Po, and two Caldecott Honors for The Emperor and the Kite and Seven Blind Mice. He was twice nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the highest international recognition given to children's book authors and illustrators who have made a lasting contribution to children's literature. Ed Young lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

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The Masterwork of a Painting Elephant 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book to my 2nd grade class and they were enthralled from beginning to end!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in my bbya club and loved it.i recoomend to 9-12 year olds
superbadgerlovestory More than 1 year ago
I am ashamed. My 10-year old nephew got an advanced copy of this book from his parents' "literary" friends. Last weekend I was visiting and the bright blue cover caught my eye. I flipped it open and started skimming through this supposed "children's" book. Breathtaking. I loved everything about it. The beautiful writing made the whole experience feel like a dance across the pages. I will give it back to my nephew eventually, but I think I will read it a few more times first.