Once Upon an Elephant

NSTA Recommends - May 2016

Once Upon an Elephant, by Linda Stanek is a wonderful picture book that instills the love and respect for each individual organism as part of an ecosystem. Shennen Bersani’s illustrations are colorful sketches of the life of the elephant. Poaching and habitat loss threaten its very existence. Disappearance of the elephant would be detrimental to the entire African savanna.

Science Books & Films - January 2017

This book is a well-illustrated testimony to the importance of elephants in preserving the African savanna and helping prevent it from becoming forest. The author approaches the topic by repeatedly discussing "once upon an elephant," identifying different roles played by elephants. This is a clever approach to the topic, essentially describing what would happen if elephants were no longer there. These "superheroes" help keep the African savanna in balance. A section at the end of the book is "For Creative Minds" and describes Keystone Species, Rainy Season, Dry Season, and All About Elephants.

Kids Book Buzz - March 2016

I loved Once Upon an Elephant because it taught me a lot about how elephants help the other animals around them. The illustrations were beautiful, and made me want to look at the pictures over and over again. I like how the author used Once Upon an Elephant like "once upon a time." I hope people learn more about elephants and help them from becoming extinct. I liked the extra pages at the back of the book which taught more about elephants, ecosystems, and the seasons in a tropical habitat.

Colin Gillies, Wildlife and Environment Expert Zimbabwe - May 2016

It has always been my belief that the only way there is any hope of a long term future for our wildlife and environment is through inspiring and educating our young folk to appreciate just how important this is. "Once upon an elephant" does just this. The story of just how important elephants are in assisting the survival of other animal species by keeping the Savannah in balance...This intriguing story featuring outstanding illustrations by Shennew Bersani is a must for every young child's library.

Batch of Books - April 2016

Once Upon an Elephant is all about elephants (obviously) and their impact on the habitats they live in. The world would be much different without elephants, and I love how this book explores how these great mammals fit into the cycle of life. They dig holes that fill with water, they eat young trees that would otherwise take over the grasslands, and they dig up dirt rich in salt that all the animals benefit from. Like other books from this publisher, Once Upon an Elephant has reserved the last pages in the book for information about elephants and how important they are to the African Savannah.

Agy Wilson - April 2016

Stanek tells the tale of the elephant on the savannah with effective prose, by showing it’s impact and how all the flora, fauna are interwoven, and depend upon the elephant. Her refrain of “but the elephant was there” builds to a beat when it becomes apparent, that the elephant has the possibility of disappearing. Bersani’s illustrations are lush and clear, with beautiful colors, textures and some dramatic effects, such as the wild fire and the star-speckled night as mothers wrap trunks around their calves. The back matter has more information for the avid learner, about the elephants, seasons and more species of area.

Zoo Educator - April 2016

I must confess, I had some trepidation as I opened this book. I'm in a management position in informal education programs for young children and their families at a dedicated exhibit in an AZA-accredited North American zoo...Having read through several times I'm so glad to be able to share how refreshing I found this book of Linda Stanek's to be. With the exception of the very last two pages, which the distinctly different illustrations serve as an indicator to the reader that the "story" is over, the information woven into the story is clear, simple, and appropriate for a young audience. The illustrations are great, and the more detailed information at the very end provide additional facts and some simple learning activities for readers that are ready for such content. Definitely worth the read!

San Diego Zoo Educator

What I love about this book is it achieves a more accurate portrayal of the positive role elephants play in their natural environment. I also really love the beautiful illustrations. This book is fantastic for my six year old son as it enhances his understanding of the elephant in a more scientific way and yet it's not too difficult for him to comprehend. He will continue to be ahead of his class in understanding the roles these animals play in the wild and helping the humans around him (usually his teachers) understand more accurately that animals are endangered and that we need to help. This is the type of book that will hopefully inspire our kids to be advocates for the earth and her inhabitants.

Suzi Rapp, Columbus Zoo

Once Upon an Elephant is another fabulous book by Linda Stanek with illustrations by Shennen Bersani. I love to see books that teach kids accurate information about animals, especially species in Africa, who many will never have the chance to see. I would highly recommend it to any family with kids, not only as a fun story with great illustrations, but also as a learning tool. I’m excited to have it on my shelf to share with generations to come. Great job Linda!

Educator, Cameron Park Zoo

This is a wonderful story about how elephants are an important part of the ecosystem. As a Zoo educator, at Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas, I am always looking for animal stories that are entertaining and educational to use with different education programs. The "For Creative Minds" at the end of the book was a wonderful addition for expanding the topic. I will be using this book for story time, zoo camps and educational days and looking for additional books from this author!

Educator, Hogle Zoo

This is a great story to illustrate the necessary role elephants play in their ecosystem. Here at Utah's Hogle Zoo it is incorporated into our camps and classes as it teaches about the necessity to protect keystone species like elephants. The story is well written and the illustrations are beautiful and both are easily understood by children and adults alike.

Educators, Louisville Zoo

Children's story books about animals that are educational (and accurate!) can be hard to come by. This book tackles a difficult concept to teach young children - "keystone species." Through various realistic scenarios, the author doesn't just tell, but shows how elephants are so important to all the species they live with in their habitat. Without them, the habitat wouldn't look the same and many species would have a hard time surviving. Another concept - "animal endangerment" - is also difficult for young children to understand and is sometimes avoided until about 4th grade. This book touches on that subject without being too graphic or gloomy. The ending paints a picture of a highly important species still existing in Africa with adults protecting their young, and leaves the reader with a sense of contentment and peace. As children grow and mature, they will learn more about why elephants are endangered and, with this book, they will have a better understanding of the many reasons why we need to protect them and their habitat.

Zoo Educator Jerran Orwig, Cincinnati Zoo

Once Upon an Elephant is unique look at how important elephants are to the African landscape. As a keystone species, these animals play a critical role in the functioning of the ecosystem, and this children’s book does a wonderful job at highlighting these various contributions.

As a current zoo educator in the zoo & aquarium field for many years, I tend to be critical of children’s stories about animals, since many of them perpetuate animal misconceptions (e.g. opossums hang upside from trees – no, they don’t) and/or classify species incorrectly (e.g. telling a story about a monkey but all the illustrations are of an orangutan, who’s actually a great ape). Especially when it is a story set in Africa, a place I’ve spent personal time in for several months and am quite attached to. So it was *REFRESHING* to explore Stanek’s informative story and enjoy Bersani’s accurate illustrations, taking me back to a place I love dearly and a book I would be very comfortable as an educator sharing with participants. Stanek's passion for wildlife and wild places is evident throughout the story and pulls you in as you turn each page, intrigued to explore "what else?!" elephants do! The book comes with a couple informational pages at the back that provide parents, teachers, etc. tools to continue this important conversation about keystone species and extend the learning.

It would’ve been great to wrap up the story with a little more hope -- how humans can bring hope and restoration to the story, how we can empower readers and the people of that African landscape to make change. That’s something we try to leave with each visitor, child or adult, as they walk away from a program, conversation, or just a day at the zoo. “But the elephants were there…” Yes they are – and let’s keep it that way :)

Thank you for a beautiful story and educational resource, Linda - nicely done!

Archimedes Notebook - March 2016

Elephants are a keystone species- a species that helps other living things meet their basic needs. They dig salt for zebras, slow wildfires, plant seeds, maintain grasslands – they help keep the African savanna in balance. If something happens to a keystone species, the entire ecosystem is hurt. So… what would happen if the elephants were gone, if they were only “once upon a time”? That's what this book explores.

A Year of Reading - March 2016

Local author Linda Stanek has ventured out into the wild once again! With this newest book, she shows readers what it means when scientists designate elephants a keystone species of the African Savannah.

Elephants do so much! They break through hardened mud for water that benefits all. They keep trees from taking over the savannah, find salt, leave tracks that fill with water, pound down paths that become fire barriers, and so much more.

Clearly, it is important to protect these amazing animals -- for their own value, and for the value they bring to an entire ecosystem!

Heck of a Bunch - February 2016

Elephants are majestical, beautiful creatures that I find interesting. Although not extinct, they are endangered. Along with any other animal in the circle of life, other species are affected when major circumstances occur. Once Upon an Elephant is a story that tells the importance of elephants and the benefits they bring to the savanna and other animals. For instance, elephants dig in the riverbanks with their tusks, giving other animals the opportunity to gather around and drink from them. This book is a learning tool that's told in an interesting way for children to understand.

Bambini Travel - January 2016

Once Upon an Elephant is a beautiful look at the way these large, lumbering creatures affect all of the other creatures in the great Savannah. Told through gentle repetitive phrasing and soft expansive illustrations, you can feel the slow movement of the elephants as they shape the world around them. Elephants are able to adapt the world every day with their tusks, their trunks, their footprints and even their dung. The impact that they make and the animals they help, so wonderfully described throughout the book, are in great danger as elephants grow closer to extinction. A powerful message and elegant book about these great animals.

Kid Lit Reviews - June 2016

After reading Once Upon an Elephant, kids—and adults—will understand how imperative elephants and other keystone species are to the world.

Patricia Sims, World Elephant Day co-founder - May 2016

Once Upon an Elephant is a beautifully designed and written story, suitable for children as young as four years old up to four or fifth graders. By using a child-oriented language the story tells the important role elephants play in their environment. It shows that their existence is crucial for other species to survive, both plants and animals. It describes in simple sentences what elephants do and the effects they have on their environment and on other animals who share the same habitat. All facts reflect accurately the interrelations between elephants and their environment. We appreciate the realistic and beautiful illustrations of animals and the African scenery.

The book not only imparts knowledge about elephants and the purpose of their existence but also includes games and activities plus further information about where to find even more ideas to engage in fun activities, which will reinforce the facts the children listened to or read about.As co-founder of World Elephant Day, which is celebrated August 12th, I would like to thank Linda for helping to build awareness and bring attention to the plight of Elephants. It is the mission of World Elephant Day to inform, motivate and encourage people to educate themselves and their children, take action and make responsible choices.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

"Written for children ages 4-8 years old, this book can be enjoyed by all ages, particularly animal lovers. This book is a great addition to a child’s library. It teaches about keystone species, rainy season versus dry season and, of course, elephants. My children greatly enjoyed it and we all learned a lot about elephants which we had not known previously."