#869 – Once Upon an Elephant by Linda Stanek and Shennen Bersani

onceuponanelephant cover Once Upon an Elephant
Written by Linda Stanek
Illustrated by Shennen Bersani
Arbordale Publishing  2/10/2016
32 pages  Ages 4—8

“From slowing wildfires to planting seeds, one animal is the true superhero that keeps the African savannah in balance. Elephants dig to find salt that other animals lick, their deep footprints collect water for small creatures to drink, and they eat young trees to keep the forest from overtaking the grasslands. In every season, the elephants are there to protect the savannah and its residents—but what would happen if the elephants were only “once upon a time?” Read along to discover the important role this species plays in the savannah and explore what would happen if the elephants vanished.” [inside jacket]

“Once upon an elephant, the sun beat down on the hot, cracked earth. Rivers ran dry. The animals of the savannah risked dying from thirst. But the elephants were there.”

Thus begins Once Upon an Elephant, a nature book about life on an African savannah. Not only are elephants the largest mammal on Earth, they are one of the most important, if not the most important, animal on an African savannah. Whether the season is rainy or dry, elephants help other animals survive; sometimes simply by doing what comes naturally to them. For example, as an elephant walks, his feet leave behind footprints deep enough to catch water. Small animals, too far from a river, quench their thirst by drinking this ‘footprint’ water.

dry land-thirst

During the dry season, when the land cracks from the hot sun and lack of moisture, water becomes scarce. Elephants use their strong tusks to dig into the earth until they find water. Because of this, many animals that might otherwise perish will survive. Author Linda Stanek gives kids six examples of the elephants’ immense importance to the ecosystem of an African savannah.

dry land-elephants

Stanek keeps the story firmly on elephants and helps young minds remember this by repeating the phrase, “But the elephants were there.” I like this. It helps both retention and reading. Young children, excited to see the many different animals, will soon recite this phrase, as the page turns from problem to solution (provided by elephants). Each problem is huge for the savannah and the other animals.

Once Upon an Elephant concerns the connectedness between everything in an ecosystem, in this case an African savannah, and places emphasis on the keystone species’—elephants—ecological importance to every animal on the savannah. Elephants provide water; help clear grasslands; control fires and provide escape routes for other animals; and contribute to sprouting new trees in forest areas (which also provide shade). Another reason the elephant is a keystone species is its average life expectancy—50 years; long enough to make lasting contributions. Should elephants become extinct, a distinct possibility, these ecosystems would deteriorate, unless another keystone species appeared (highly unlikely).

salt in ground

Shennen Bersani’s illustrations beautifully capture many of Africa’s iconic animals. Giraffes, zebras, gazelles, lions, mongoose, leopards, elands, monkeys, and, of course, elephants roam the savannah. Only one animal looked out of place: a kangaroo. If a child has been to the zoo, he or she should easily recognize each animal. (I had to look up eland and mongoose.) Each spread is gorgeous, and, without words, possibly frameable.

The back matter touts, “Includes 2 pages of learning activities,” but those two pages contain only one small (four picture-to-season) match-up in a section called “For Creative Minds.” Online, a teacher’s Resource section is “yet to come.” The other two sections in “For Creative Minds.” have interesting additional information regarding elephants and keystone species.

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

ONCE UPON AN ELEPHANT. Text copyright © 2016 by Linda Stanek. Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Shennen Bersani. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Arbordale Publishing, Mt. Pleasant SC.

AmazonBook DepositoryIndie BooksApple BooksArbordale**


Find Once Upon an Elephant on Goodreads HERE.
Once Upon an Elephant Quizzes for Kids (story specific) Here and (reading specific) HERE.
Learn how this book came to life (including getting her publisher) from the Author Linda Stanek HERE.

Linda Stanek:  http://www.lindastanek.com/
Follow on Twitter          @LindaStanek

Shennen Bersani:  http://www.shennen.typepad.com/
Follow on Twitter          @ShennenBersani

Arbordale Publishing:  http://www.arbordalepublishing.com/
Follow on Twitter           @ArbordaleKids

*notice:  Double check ISBN or Author/Publisher, as there are 3 other books with exact same title.
**Also available as an Audiobook, in Paperback, and in Spanish

2016 National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Recommended Book

Reprinted with permission from ONCE UPON AN ELEPHANT © 2016 by Linda Stanek, Arbordale Publishing, Illustrations © 2016 by Shennen Bersani.




Copyright © 2016 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: Once Upon an Elephant by Linda Stanek & Shennen Bersani, and received from Arbordale Publishing, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Once Upon an Elephant
Written by Linda Stanek
Illustrated by Shennen Bersani
Arbordale Publishing 2/10/2016


5 thoughts on “#869 – Once Upon an Elephant by Linda Stanek and Shennen Bersani

  1. Thank you so much for your review. I’m sorry though, I’m not sure which animal you refer to as a kangaroo? Is it one of my mouses? I’m curious which page you refer to, I did not illustrate a kangaroo in this book.


  2. Who knew these pachyderms played such an important role? Very interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Lovely illustrations.

    Liked by 1 person

If you like this post ... Why?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.