A Story of Magic in 5 Acts: Light Verse on a Heavy Subject

By: Jane Yolen

Illustrated by: Brett Helquist

Published: May 17, 2022

Publisher: Chronicle Kids


A baby elephant is captured and brought back to the states to be trained to perform in a circus. Jane Yolen states in her author’s note that this story is loosely based on David Balding’s Circus Flora which he created in 1987 in St. Louis, Missouri. Flora’s mother had been killed in Zimbabwe in 1982 and he rescued Flora because he had always wanted an elephant. I also have a soft spot for elephants and am drawn to stories about them. With only 22 words in this whole story, the pictures take a lead role and share the journey of Flora from African safari to Circus star.

Only using hyphenated words with Ele as the beginning, a story of this young elephant’s life is shared beginning with her stepping into a trap and being captured and ending in an elephant sanctuary with other ele-friends.

The pictures take center stage in this book as readers will see the illustrations portray emotions, the chronology of events, and the eventual exhaustion of the ring leader and elephant. Let your child follow along with the pictures and see if they can tell the story just based on the illustrations alone.

Jane Yolen is prolific and this particular book offers a much different reading experience than her other books. I even became a bit emotional as I didn’t know quite what to expect when reading. Yolen chose the perfect illustrator to tell Flora and David’s story. There is a lot of attention given to detail and emotions and I always feel it is a sign of a good illustrator when you can show emotion clearly in the eyes of a character.

For those who love circus stories, elephants, or stories based on real people and events this read-aloud offers an opportunity for finding out more about the real Flora and David Balding.

Jane Yolen, hailed as the Hans Christian Andersen of America, has written more than 370 books, won numerous awards, and received six honorary doctorates in literature. Her works include such classics as The Devil’s Arithmetic, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, the Caldecott medal winner Owl Moon, and A Bear Sat On My Porch Today. Jane lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts, and you can check out her website, HERE.

Brett Helquist is the New York Times bestselling illustrator of many books, including Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Chasing Vermeer, and Guitar Genius by Kim Tomsic (Chronicle). He is also the author-illustrator of Grumpy Goat; Bedtime for Bear; and Roger, the Jolly Pirate. A native of Utah, Brett now lives in Brooklyn, New York. When he has a little free time, Brett loves to play guitar, ukulele, and banjo. Visit him at his website, HERE.

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Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to make a purchase through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.
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