We were recently asked to review a book called The Story of the Elephant. The book isn’t the sort of book that would ever usually cross my radar to read with the children but I was intrigued to take a look.
The book itself is beautiful and tells a story from the Qur’an and isn’t a story that I am familiar with myself. It is a stunningly illustrated book, packed to the brim with colourful pages and pop ups.
I find religion endlessly fascinating. When I was at school RE lessons were a chore – I remember my classes took place on the last lesson of a Friday and it was just so tedious. The teacher didn’t do anything to engage his students and I really can’t recall learning much about the world religions at all. Since leaving school and studying for my degree I opted to study a module that looked at religion and I found it totally absorbing, and for a time considered taking a Master’s course that focussed on religion. Children put paid to that, but I am sure that in the future I will read more about the different world religions.
I myself am not religious, but I find it extraordinary that religion has endured, and continues to. I want Daniel and Emma to understand the religious traditions that have such impact on our lives (even in terms of the basic calendar of Christian festivals) and have an understanding of other religions. Living in Manchester means that we have such wonderful access to the Jewish Museum as well as the Buddhist Centre, the Islamic Centre and many churches of the various Christian denominations. All these will be available for Daniel and Emma to explore as they grow older and I want to be able to help them make sense of the different relgions and to have an understanding and appreciation of them.
When the book arrived Daniel was really intrigued – and wasn’t too keen on waiting for me to take photos! As soon as I took it out of the packaging he wanted me to open it, and he has picked it up time and time again since – his favourite page is the one where the elephant kneels. We read the book together the following afternoon when Emma slept. He was really engaged with the illustrations and pop ups and I thought we would build on this and do some elephant crafts.
A quick search of google for ‘elephant crafts’ and I spotted various paper plate elephants. I thought we would give that a go, and I think it could, quite possibly, be one of my best crafty endeavours yet. We stuck various bits of crepe paper (and stickers) onto a paper plate. I then cut a trunk shape, an ear shape and leg shapes which we decorated and glued to the plate. With the aid of some goggly eyes (which is absolutely Daniel’s favourite thing to craft with!) we had elephants.
The book itself is beautiful. It has some really lovely pop ups in it and Daniel is mesmerised by it. I have read it to him a few times, but as he is only just two, he isn’t quite as engaged with the story as I expect he will be in a year or two. I am surprised with just how often he picks up this book to look at it, or brings it to me to operate some of the pop ups for him. The story is quite difficult for Daniel at the moment to understand as it uses words, phrases and place names which don’t often come up in the types of things I read let alone what we read together but despite this he wants to read it almost daily! The same is true of his Noah’s Ark and Daniel and the Lions stories; they’re just that little bit too advanced for him at the moment.
What I like about this book is that it is beautifully engaging and will certainly be a wonderful and simple introduction into learning about Islam for Daniel and Emma. Having this sort of book is really easy to use and I plan to read a bit more about the story of the elephant myself in preparation for some extended learning.
The publishers are also going to make available some lesson plan type information for schools to use, so this will, I am sure, be something of interest to the home education community who are looking for a way to introduce RE.
I’m already thinking of other elephant based crafts Daniel, Emma and I can do in the future as we look to learn more about the story of the elephant.
This is a beautiful book and I will be watching with interest the other books from this publisher – it will certianly be a book that I expect we will be reading together many times over the coming years.
I was sent a copy of this book to review. All words and opinions are my own.