Review Blog

Dec 31 2014

Elephants have wings by Susanne Gervay

cover image

Ill. by Anna Pignataro. Ford St Publishing, 2014. ISBN 9781925000399 (hardcover). ISBN 9781925000405 (paperback).
(Age: 7+) Picture Book.
Elephant and the blind men
Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, "Hey, there is an elephant in the village today."
They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, "Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway." All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.
"Hey, the elephant is a pillar," said the first man who touched his leg.
"Oh, no! it is like a rope," said the second man who touched the tail.
"Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree," said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
"It is like a big hand fan" said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
"It is like a huge wall," said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
"It is like a solid pipe," Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.
They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, "What is the matter?" They said, "We cannot agree to what the elephant is like." Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, "All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said."
"Oh!" everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.
The moral of the story is that there may be some truth to what someone says. Sometimes we can see that truth and sometimes not because they may have different perspective which we may not agree to. So, rather than arguing like the blind men, we should say, "Maybe you have your reasons." This way we don't get in arguments. In Jainism, it is explained that truth can be stated in seven different ways. So, you can see how broad our religion is. It teaches us to be tolerant towards others for their viewpoints. This allows us to live in harmony with the people of different thinking. This is known as the Syadvada, Anekantvad, or the theory of Manifold Predictions.
http://www.jainworld.com/literature/story25.htm
Taking inspiration from this old moral tale used in many spiritual traditions including Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sufism, Susanne Gervay has created a beautiful story for children to explore 'the humanity in all of us'.
After their father retells his version of the story, two children are magically transported on a winged elephant to discover the meaning of the parable. This beautiful tale is accompanied by wonderful illustrations created from a variety of media in an expressionistic style.
The book has been endorsed by the Blake Society with the Blake Prize for art and poetry exploring themes of spirituality, religion and human justice and links perfectly with the Australian Curriculum: Asia & Australia's Engagement with Asia.
A beautiful addition to your collection for children Lower/Middle school.
Sue Warren

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