Next month my children’s book Happy Tears and Rainbow Babies launches and although the reviews have been very encouraging so far, I know that the first negative review is unavoidable. Writing a children’s book is in no way easy or inexpensive. You have to work with illustrators to bring your vision to life and ensure that your book is appealing to your main audience. But none of this is guarantees that everyone (or anyone) will love your book. This is pretty nerve wrecking stuff – to pour so much of yourself into a project only to have someone express their issues with your book by giving it with a bad review. Not that any one review can make or break your book project. So to occupy my mind with other thoughts and to try to understand what a reviewer might feel when reviewing a book, I decided to spend this month reading and reviewing some other books from new authors like myself. I have received no payment for any of the reviews and I have promised to remain truthful in my review of the books. To add further dimension to the review, I have decided to include my children’s opinions on the books in all my reviews.
Okay I am super excited about this first book, The Elephants and the Chocolate Cake was written by Balachander Vijayakumar and illustrated by Janani Balachander. The Elephants and the Chocolate Cake is a lovely story about 3 elephant friends named Toco, Poco and Loco (seriously how cute is that?) who are trying to celebrate Poco’s birthday by finding the biggest chocolate cake they can find (they are elephants so a regular sized cake simply won’t do). The elephant friends journey through London to find this great cake and have to deal with a few challenges along the way but with the helpful advice from a little boy named Neil and some impressive problem solving skills, they are able to create the most extraordinary chocolate cake ever! The illustration is simple but effective and if you look closely you would be able to recognize some of London’s more famous architecture displayed throughout the book.
The book opens with an invitation to Poco’s 3rd birthday party. So right away the reader is pulled into the story, you are not a passive reader but someone routing for the friends to get this cake. The first major theme explored in this book is the friendship. Although they are all different, the elephant friends support and love each other. This was a wonderful point to explore with my children who are at the age where they are learning about friendship and interact with children who are different from them in many ways. We were able to discuss that it doesn’t matter if someone looked different from you physically, you can still play together and have fun.
Another major theme in this book is problem-solving. Toco, Poco and Loco had a major problem finding an elephant sized chocolate cake and at times they got quite sad but they didn’t give up. It was important to them to get the cake so they tried and tried again. Like most children, my daughter and son can get pretty frustrated when things don’t work out right away but we were able to see how the elephants worked hard and were finally able to win at the end.
The final theme that I saw as beneficial in this book is the skill of asking for help. Sometimes there are problems that require us to ask for help, and my children and I were able to see that when the problem got really hard, the elephants were able to share it with Neil who gave them a very helpful suggestion that worked out well for them.
The book ends with an opportunity for the reader to colour their heroes – a triumphant looking Toco, Poco and Loco. This element was a really nice touch and one that I greatly admired.
If it isn’t obvious by now, I absolutely adored this book and I am of the firm belief that there are not enough books about elephants. My children were quite fond of the elephants and felt pretty invested in their story. Written in simple language it is a great book for those early readers to consume and Balachander weaves some great life lessons into his work. I think that parents and children will enjoy this book and it allows for a lot of important conversations between parent and child.
This book is available at amazon.com.