Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ella the Pink Elephant by Doris Rueger

Ella the Pink Elephant: Her Life, Love and Fame is a new illustrated children's book by Doris Rueger.  Ironically, I feel that  grandparents may find this story applicable and enjoy this book just as much as  children.  The author's message will certainly be enjoyed and applied by the old and young alike.  This story is a biography about a fictional elephant named Ella- a chronicle of her life starting with her birth and ending with her retirement.  Even though she is an animal, her life parallels that of the milestones that our often faced in our own lifetimes: birth, childhood, adulthood, career, retirement and companionship. The author also addresses the insecurities and fears we may face in times of change and transition- and captures them in a children's story.

The story depicts the growing relationship between Ella, the elephant and her own personal attendant, a former clown named Zeppo, who took on the job as her zoo keeper in anticipation of her birth.  Zeppo referred to Ella as his "princess" and made sure she was dressed in the finest and most beautiful pink dresses. Some readers might find it unusual that a grown man would develope such as strong bond to an elephant.  But this eccentric relationship is included as it often parallels relationships experienced in "human" society.   The attachment and the bond between the man  and Ella depicts her first "love" as highlighted in the title. 

She eventually became the star attraction of the zoo, hence the reference to her "Fame" in the title of the book.  Ellie finds she must make the transition from childhood to adult hood as she grows up to become what Zeppo affectionately calls a "beautiful grown up Lady Elephant". Oddly enough, she leaves the zoo and takes on a job with a wedding planner modeling clothing and appearing in fancy weddings. Her new keeper, Anna, is a fomer African missionary who has a fondness for elephants. Once again Ella  feels a new loving bond of trust developing with her new keeper and her fame in her new career continues.

As time passes, Ella grows old and decides to retire from her career.  Anna finds a zoo, where Ella is able to disgard all her clothing, accessories and makeup- to retire in peace. This is analogous to the stage in life that many must face when they retire from their careers and perhaps move into retirement villages or nursing homes.  Her self confidence diminishes as she realizes she is no longer young and beautiful, yet her fond memories of her life are sufficient for her happiness.  Zeppo, after all the years has never forgotten her and teaches her an important lesson that value and self worth do not depend on physical beauty, youth or a carrer and that love and friendship can stand the test of time.  This is an important lesson for everyone to understand- adults too.  While children may miss this lesson of the story- which I feel is especially suited to adult readers, the story itself is entertaining enough to hold a child's attention.

The original, illustrated artwork, as well as the elephant character and zoo setting will appeal to young children. The large chunks of text, and the writing style as well as the themes, communicates to adults and older children.  It is not often that you find a children's book that can teach the adult reader an important and relevant lesson. This book addresses the self esteem issues, as well as the isolation and loneliness that many older people may feel.  Nevertheless the lesson about self worth and value is universal. Personally I feel this is a very good book for parents and grandparents not only to read to children but to read for themselves. As a blogger I receieved a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.

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