Elephants

Beloved the world over, elephants have long held a special place in the minds of children. These top elephant books showcase the strength and gentleness of these great creatures.

Top 5 Children’s Elephant Books

horton hears a hoo! Horton Hears a Hoo!: Dr. Seuss is among the most beloved of children’s books writers, and this book is one of the most beloved of the bunch. Horton the Elephant is a funny, borderline absurd character who represents the best human traits: kindness, perseverance, and trustworthiness. In this comical tale, Horton hears a distress cry from a tiny bit of dust, and spends the majority of the book attempting to save these teeny tiny creatures from other animals. While Horton’s other friends think he’s gone a little crazy, in the end, he achieves his goals. This book is fun, funny, and teaches important lessons about taking care of one another and never giving up.
we are in a book! We Are in a Book!: Gerald the loveable elephant pairs up with best friend Piggie in this witty romp that’s chock full of visual gags. The loveable characters come to realize that they’re actually characters in a book. They delight in interacting with the reader, by way of encouraging the reader to read along out loud. The animals are briefly concerned as they realize the book will inevitably come to an end, but they quickly recover by asking readers to read it again. Children love the animated and energetic animals, while adults are impressed by the wide range of emotions the author and illustrator manage to project.
a sick day for amos mcgee A Sick Day for Amos McGee: Poor Amos McGee! In this thoughtful and inspiring book, Mr. MrGee, an elderly man who works at the zoo, comes down with a bad cold and must spend the day in bed. Luckily, because Amos has been such a wonderful friend to the animals at the zoo, they break out of their cages and brave the bus to help Amos – and help they do! The wise elephant plays chess with him, while the others help to keep him warm, fed and safe. This book subtly underscores the importance of good deeds and the rewards that come as a result of doing good by each other.
the world's greatest elephant The World’s Greatest Elephant: This whimsical, true tale of Modoc the elephant and his young friend Bram takes place in a small, German circus town. Both Bram and his friend were born on the same day, and had a lifelong friendship spanning more than 8 decades. Being friends with an elephant is never easy, from the ending of the circus to a dramatic shipwreck in the Indian Ocean, the bond between the world’s greatest elephant and his human friend only grew as each obstacle was overcome. Kids will love this true story of the adventures that eventually led to stardom in the Ringling Brothers Circus.
elmer Elmer: Elmer the elephant is a colorful character – in more ways than one. His hide resembles that of a multicolored checkerboard, and is quite a topic of conversation for his gray elephant family and friends. Elmer, who is typically a friendly, funny, optimist, begins to suspect that the other elephants aren’t just talking about his difference – but are actually laughing at him. When Elmer comes up with a plan to mask his beautiful colors, he quickly learns that there is no one he’d rather be than himself. This book is beautifully illustrated in stunning colors and utilizes many different coloring techniques.

Other Great Kids Books About Elephants

babar Babar: Babar the elephant is a friendly, funny and slightly absurd pachyderm. Written in 1931 by French writer Jean Brunhoff, these elephant books have truly stood the test of time – thanks in large part to their humorous handling of universal themes. The sweet, simple Babar leaves his relaxed country home behind, and travels to the bustling city, where he has a host of adventures, including becoming a hit of the highest society and being crowned elephant king. Eventually he returns to his beloved country home to regal his friends and family with dramatic and inspiring stories of his trip to the big city.
the saggy baggy elephant The Saggy Baggy Elephant: This classic Little Golden Book begins with a mean spirited parrot teasing Sooki the elephant for his big elephant ears, long trunk and wrinkly skin. Sooki initially feels quite unsure of himself, but once he discovers other creatures who look just like him, he celebrates his unique look with a “one-two-three-kick”, and comes to realize that there’s no one he’d rather be than the elephant he is. Parents and their children alike have read this beloved tale for over 50 years. The gorgeous illustrations were drawn by the same artist who expertly illustrated the classic The Poky Little Puppy.
horton hatches the egg Horton Hatches the Egg: Another beloved book from Dr. Suess’s Horton series, in Horton Hatches the Egg we catch up with our elephant friend as Maysie the bird talks him into sitting on his egg while she takes a break – or so she says! We soon learn that Maysie has actually taken off for a permanent ‘vacation’ in Palm Springs. Come what may, Horton never leaves his branch – despite snow storms, and the taunting and teasing of his friends. After months of perseverance, Horton finally sees the fruits of his labor – a beautiful little elephant-bird. Children will love the classic Suess style and distinctive illustrations.
grandpa green Grandpa Green: While this might be one of the newer children’s books about elephants on this list, it is sure to be a classic. The unique, powerful art is both luscious and sparse, and is a far cry from the cartoony illustrations you see in many books. The tale centers around Grandpa Green’s grandson, who explores his grandfather’s masterful topiary garden, with mystical creatures like the elegant elephant. The themes subtly explored here include the bonds of love and family history, and the loss of memory that comes with aging. This is a stunning book that both children, parents and grandparents will delight in.
today i will fly! Today I Will Fly!: Piggie is bound and determined to fly, but her good friend Gerald the elephant simply doesn’t think it’s possible. A series of hijinks ensues, during which we learn that where Gerald is careful, Piggie is rash. Where Piggie is always in a delightful mood, Gerald takes things much more seriously. Gerald is a worry wart, and Piggie simply takes things in stride. During Piggie’s quest for flight, and Gerald’s hand-wringing attempts to stop her, we learn that each of the friends balances one another. Told in short, easy to read words, this is an ideal book for beginning readers, who will delight in the tales of these two very different friends.
but no elephants But No Elephants: Grandma Tilly loves every person and animal – except elephants. In fact, she so loves animals that when an animal salesman comes along, she buys every animal he has – except the elephant. This book is the story of that poor, lonely elephant that she didn’t select – who ended up not so lonely after all when the salesman left it at Grandma Tilly’s house. Through the course of the winter, Grandma Tilly experiences a range of emotions, from anger at the unwanted guest eating all her food, and eventually love and acceptance when she learns to cherish her ‘accidental’ pet.
five minutes' peace Five Minutes’ Peace: Poor Mrs. Large, all she wants is just five minutes worth of peace, but with three energetic elephant children, she simply can’t find it. She tries everything, from a quiet meal ruined by an overturned box of cereal and crushed eggs, to a warm bath in which her children make an uninvited, splashing surprise entrance. One elephant child just wants to play a short song on his flute, another just wants to read one page out loud, but Mrs. Large knows that it won’t stop here. Finally, she manages to find exactly 3 minutes and 45 seconds of peace. She learns to appreciate this brief reprise from the joys of parenthood, and children and parents alike will both enjoy her journey.
ella the elegant elephant Ella the Elegant Elephant: Ella may be little, but she’s got a huge heart. After moving to a new town, Ella’s about to start school and is feeling quite anxious about it! To calm her nerves, she decides to wear her grandma’s elegant “good luck hat.” A brutal bully named Belinda dubs her, “Ella the Ella-gant,” which only serves to make little Ella feel more unwelcome, but soon it is Ella to the rescue when Belinda is in trouble. The entire class reacts by honoring Ella’s clothes with similar ones of their own, and embracing the shy little elephant. With whimsical drawings and a simple design, this is a book that children will treasure.
are you ready to play outside Are You Ready to Play Outside: Here’s another children’s book about elephants starring two of our favorites: Gerald the elephant and Piggie. In this tale, their normal roles are reversed, when the typically disheartened Gerald finds the perpetually perky Piggie a victim of a case of the sads. It’s up to Gerald to help her get through this dark patch, and with the charm, humor and grace that’s typical of this series, Gerald helps her do just that. This book is an excellent way to show children that while everyone is sad sometimes, the people who care about you will be there to help pick you back up.
miss mary mack: a hand-clapping rhyme Miss Mary Mack: A Hand-Clapping Rhyme: From the very first page, this bright and lively take on the well-known song and schoolyard game is chock full of new verses and engaging pen and ink, and watercolor drawings. Miss Mary is a boisterous young woman who perfects her pretty face at a pink skirted vanity table next to a newspaper headline that proclaims, “Elephant Escapes Zoo.” Added verses show a much more complex Miss Mary, and the errant elephant is focused on more heavily, as he hops a fence, lands in a yard full of picnickers, and becomes best buddies with young Miss Mary. This interactive book includes music and hand instructions.
ellison the elephant Ellison the Elephant: Ellison is an elephant with an unusual sound, but with the help of his imaginary friend Weasel, Ellison is able to embrace his uniqueness. The author and publisher have found a creative way to share Ellison’s sound with the readers, by pairing the book with an audio CD. This is one of the elephant books that isn’t just written for children, nor is it especially written for adults. It’s simply written for the reader and listener, whoever they may be. It’s an excellent tale that shows the power of identifying your strengths and embracing your own unique gifts.
small as an elephant Small as an Elephant: Jack’s mother has always had her ups and downs; she is sometimes responsible and loving, other times she can’t be counted on. In this complex tale of the search for independence, Jack’s been left in a campground, with no way to get home. Most kids would report a parent who left them, but Jack is determined to find his own way. Through his trials and tribulations, Jack’s only companion is his small toy elephant, who keeps him company and gives him the hope he needs. This is a book that digs deeper than many of the other children’s books about elephants, and allows children to relate to Jack’s inner journey.
hurty feelings Hurty Feelings: Despite Fragility the Hippo’s large and imposing stature, she’s really quite fragile inside. No matter how nice a compliment may be, Fragility can find a way to spin it into an insult. Her oversensitivity has made her unhappy in virtually every situation. Enter Rudy, the bully elephant, whose real insults finally show Fragility what it takes to be strong both inside and out. Children will recognize these characters as similar to their own classmates, and will enjoy the fast paced, humorous story. The unique watercolor illustrations really bring these scenes to life, as we watch Fragility and Rudy both grown and learn from the opposite attitudes of one another.
allie the allergic elephant Allie the Allergic Elephant: Peanut allergies can be life threatening, but many parents, students, and even teachers don’t know how to handle a child with a peanut allergy. In Allie the Allergic Elephant, we meet an elephant who’s allergic to peanuts. Allie explains these allergies in a simple, direct way that gives insight to children and adults on how they should treat their friends with allergies. The book covers common situations that arise, such as sharing snacks, or what foods can secretly contain peanuts. While the focus is primarily on peanuts, this is an an excellent first step to understanding the special needs of kids with food allergies of all types.
pete and pickles Pete and Pickles: Pete’s a simple, practical and deliberate pig, or at least he used to be! That was before he met Pickles the runaway circus elephant, who was desperately in need of a friend. Pickles’ imagination is chock full of fun and fantastic ideas, like taking Pete to Niagara Falls, or dragging him to go sledding down the Matterhorn. Pete the pig is initially reluctant to go along, but just as he begins to enjoy his new more adventurous life, Pickles goes too far. This cute, whimsical tale shows children just how important balance is, and teaches important lessons about setting boundaries.
faithful elephants Faithful Elephants: The subject of this book is more serious than other children’s books about elephants. Told from the perspective of a zookeeper, Faithful Elephants is the story of Toyko authorities in World War II who were concerned that as the city was bombarded with bombs, zoo animals might be freed and left to cause trouble within the city. Their solution? To humanely kill the animals. However, the elephants didn’t go along with these plans, and refused to eat the poisoned food, and their skin was too thick to be penetrated by needles. The result was the slow starvation of the elephants. This is a thought provoking book that is likely to lead to many questions from children.
pomelo begins to grow Pomelo Begins to Grow: Pomelo the elephant is beginning to grow, and poor little Pomelo is worried that he won’t grow equally! He wonders, If the outside grows, does that mean he’s growing and changing on the inside too? This book is chock full of playful humor, and is a great book for kids who have questions about their own growth, and who need help understanding it. While the book does take a lighthearted approach, it does so without undercutting how important these questions are. Illustrations are masterfully done, and they play with scale to underscore these important questions, as broccoli bushes and asparagus trees dot the countryside.
the elephant's child The Elephant’s Child: In this book by the legendary Rudyard Kipling, the Elephant’s Child has a single question: What do crocodiles eat for dinner? As he wanders the jungle, looking for an answer, other animals punish him for his curiosity – with a spanking! Fed up, he eventually sets off to find out for himself, which leads to a tension filled game of tug of wear with Mr. Crocodile. In the process, the poor little elephant’s trunk goes from a flat snout to the elongated trunk elephants have today. The fast pace and subtle humor of this book have made it a classic for centuries.

From silly romps, to classical texts and to somber truths, these books use the majestic elephant to relate humor and truth to children of all ages.

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