In this reassuring and richly illustrated book about separation, a mother elephant tells her Little One that she must leave and “climb the highest mountain to ask the skies for rain.” “What if I can’t hear you, Mama?” Little One asks. “Listen for my sound on the wind,” she answers. “But Mama, I won’t be able to see you,” the small elephant says later. “If we both look at the same star, it will be as if we are seeing each other,” she replies. Marino (One Too Many) crafts gorgeous, textured paintings suffused with the golden sunlight of the African plains—except, of course, at night, when a giant, milk-white moon hangs in the sky. The elephants’ giant, wrinkled bodies dominate gentle scenes of mother-and-child affection; distant giraffes and zebras move to the foreground after Little One’s mother leaves, lending comfort to the small elephant. When rain finally arrives but Mama doesn’t return, Little One is bereft until he remembers to “sing the calling song” that brings her back. Marino’s breathtaking panoramas make an already powerful story sing. Ages 2–6. Agent: Deborah Warren, East/West Literary Agency. (Mar.)
- Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Mama elephant tells her Little One that she must "climb the highest mountain to ask the skies for rain" for the dry land. Little One does not want her to go, but she promises that he will feel her love in everything around him. If he can't hear her, she will sing in the sound of the wind. The warmth of the sun will be her love. If he can't see her, they will still see each other if they both look at the brightest star. She tells him to meet her "at the moon where the sky touches the earth." After she leaves, Little One finds the brightest star at night, listens to her song in the wind, and feels her love in the warm sun. But she does not return. The rains finally come, so there is no star, sun, or wind. When the skies clear, however, Little One's Mama finally appears where the moon touches the earth, for the happy, loving reunion. The jacket's illustration of the two elephants in a loving embrace, painted with naturalistic sensitivity, establishes the emotional framework of the reassuring story. The front end pages depict a glowing orange dawn; the final end pages show a deep blue evening sky. The title pages introduce giraffes and zebras that appear in almost all the scenes, adding visual interest. Marino uses an attractive design device, a stream of small colored dots for Mama's "song" in the wind. The appealing environment enhances the sentimental story. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1—Full of luminous paintings and vibrant color, this book is instantly appealing; however, the art outshines the weak plot. Two African elephants find each other with the "calling song," beautifully depicted as a floating stream of bits of color emanating from the animals' trunks. Mama tells Little One that she must travel to the mountains to ask for rain. She reassures her child that her love will be, "In everything around you." Little One then asks a series of questions: "What if I can't hear you?"; "How will I know that you still love me?" Mama replies that she will sing on the wind, that her love will be in the warmth of the sun, and that it will be as if they can see each other by looking at the same star. Finally, Mama says, "Meet me at the moon, where the sky touches the earth." At first Little One finds comfort in the sun, the stars, and the wind, but time goes by and a storm obscures the sun and stars. Little One no longer hears a song on the wind and feels confused and abandoned, forgetting Mama's instructions. At last, Little One remembers the calling song and finds Mama as the moon sets. The sentiments are lovely, but the writing is overwrought and there are too many elements at play. For similarly luscious artwork with a clearer message, stick with Nancy Tillman's books.—Anna Haase Krueger, Antigo Public Library, WI
On the African plains a little elephant struggles with the prospect of missing his mother as she prepares to "climb the highest mountain to ask the skies for rain." Mama elephant must go because their land is experiencing drought. Typically Mama and Little One sing their calling song--depicted visually as a colorful stream of fine dots--to meet, but this trip will be long and the baby does not want his mother to go. Little One questions: "What if I can't hear you, Mama?" "How will I know you still love me?" "How will you find me again?" Each time Mama responds with gentle reassurances related to the wind, sun and stars. When Mama leaves, a trio of giraffes and a zebra couple come closer to comfort Little One. Time passes, and the small elephant despairs. But she remembers what her mother said and sings her calling song "deep into the night." Their touching reunion shows Mama encircling her baby with her trunk, a shape that is repeated in the great white moon behind them. Marino impresses with her lyrical language, conveying it in a perfect tone to allay young readers' feelings of separation anxiety. The textured mixed-media art paired with the flowing text elevates this title above most missing-mama fare. The full-bleed double-page spreads evoke the vastness of the plains and the night sky, while the finely detailed striping of the zebras and the intricate branches of the trees produce a striking contrast with the huge circles of the sun or moon that dominate most scenes. Radiating warmth and comfort, this distinguished title strikes home. (Picture book. 2-5)
Gianna Marino spent her early years galloping horses through Golden Gate Park and writing stories of her adventures. She has traveled throughout the world and now lives in Northern California, where she writes and illustrates full time. Visit Gianna at giannamarino.com.