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From The Asian Reporter, V14, #7 (February 10, 2004), page 11.

Sweet dreams

The Elephant’s Pillow

By Diana Reynolds Roome

Illustrated by Jude Daly

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003

Hardcover, 32 pages, $16.00

By Josephine Bridges

Sing Lo is a rich merchant’s son who has already seen all the grand sights of long-ago Peking and still isn’t satisfied.

"What is the greatest sight of all?" he asks his rickshaw driver, Li, who knows "every paving stone" of the city. Li tells Sing Lo about the Imperial Elephant he saw in a parade when he was a boy, and Sing Lo demands to see the animal, too. Unfortunately, the elephant has refused to carry anyone since the Emperor’s death and is considered "a nasty- tempered beast."

Based on a bedtime tale told by the author’s father after his travels in the East, The Elephant’s Pillow is the story of a little boy’s thoughtful attempts to make a giant animal feel better.

Both the narrative and the illustrations are rich in detail. The author describes a "great, dark door covered with metal studs," and the lower half of the enormous door dominates the accompanying illustration, Sing Lo beside it barely as tall as the first row of studs.

"My master needs a yellow pillow — this big — with tassels," Li tells his friend the silk merchant. The resulting pillow is soft and inviting, again dwarfing the boy but just the right size for the elephant. "His back knees bent, his front knees folded. With a huge sigh, his head sank down." In the illustration, tiny Sing Lo tiptoes away past his big, drowsy new friend. A few young readers might nod off, along with the elephant, before they reach the end of this lulling, lovely tale. That’s okay; they’ll be sure to read it again.

Diana Reynolds Roome’s story is simple but profound, and the four- to eight-year-olds for whom it is intended can learn valuable lessons about kindness and attentiveness from The Elephant’s Pillow. Jude Daly’s warm and accessible illustrations are an inspiration to young readers to try their hands at drawing. This is a wonderful book.

 

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