There are many books that adorn our home library but generally the most treasured tomes are the ones that survived the childhood years. One of these treasures is an edition of Aesop's Fables. I suspect the modern generation might give a quizzical look when asked which was their favorite fable or the nugget of wisdom gleened from the story's moral.
These ideas came to the fore of my thoughts when I read "The Elephant and the Stake," a current offering by Joanne Belvedere, which is fashioned in fable format. The author took the nod from a quote once penned by George Bernard Shaw, "I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them." It was Ms. Belvedere's desire to use this contemporary fable as a vehicle to "...help children become self-empowered from a young age."
At the opening of the story we are transported to Sri Lanka and introduced to an elephant named Erin, who is caught in the situation of laboring long hours providing tourists rides on her back. She longs to break free and swim in the nearby lake that she gazes upon daily.
She is visited by numerous animal friends who encourage her to realize her dream by saying that she is a strong creature and that she can free herself if she tries. Each time Erin sadly responds that "I've tried to free myself many times when I was smaller but I just couldn't do it."
It takes a turning point of friendship for Erin to not only break free from what once held her captive but to gain the knowledge that sustained diligence has its reward.
As an early childhood education teacher I would incorporate this story in an integrated curriculum unit focusing on the culture and environmental landscape of Sri Lanka. This book would also lend itself as a modern take of fable in a comparison/contrast unit of Aesop's Fables and modern literature.
I would recommend this book for the older kindergarten/first grade set as being age appropriate. Since the author specifically designed the text of this book using alternate fonts and colors, young readership will more easily note sentence structure and individual words.
Overcoming obstacles and achieving goals and dreams are valuable life lessons that can be taught to a captive audience in the early years and will surely spark conversation during reading times and beyond.
Laure McCourt Lopez
Joanne Belvedere was a stay-at-home mom working one day a week when she decided she wanted to explore her creativity by taking a few classes at a local college. She took a creative writing course and rediscovered her passion for children's literature. She is an experienced primary school teacher who loves to spend her free time with her family.
"The Elephant and the Stake"
By: Joanne Belvedere
SC-Retail price: $16.95
EB-Retail price: $3.99