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The Picture Book Buzz

The Elephants Come Home - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

This week's #PPBF choice is about a subject dear to my heart. The connection with and preservation of the animals that share this planet. If I could, I'd own a huge refuge and try to provide wild places where animals, especially the endangered ones, could live safely. This wonderful STEM nonfiction book is about two people who created a refuge that continues to provide sanctuary, compassion, and caring for many animals; especially one special elephant herd.

The Elephants Come Home: A True Story of Seven Elephants, Two People, and One Extraordinary Friendship

Author: Kim Tomsic

Illustrator: Hadley Hooper

Publisher: Chronicle Books (2021)

Ages: 3-5



Friendship, elephants, and conservation.


The amazing true story of a herd of elephants, the man who saved them, and the miracle of love that brought them home.

One day in 1999, Lawrence Anthony and Françoise Malby hear that a herd of wild African elephants needs a new home. They welcome the elephants to their wildlife sanctuary—Thula Thula—with open arms. But the elephants are much less sure they want to stay. How will Lawrence prove to them that they are safe and loved? What follows is a gorgeously illustrated real-life story of a friendship . . . and the story of the miraculous way that love given freely will return—greater and more wonderful than it began.

Opening Lines:

This is Lawrence.

He loves animals.

This is Françoise.

She loves Lawrence.

This is Max.

And this is Thula Thula—

a farmhouse, a garden, a swimming pool,

and 11,000 acres of African bush,

savanna, and forest

What I LOVED about this book:

The cover image of the elephant Nana and Lawrence strolling companionably across the brown dirt into the pink of a setting sun is a very powerful image and a striking palate. It definitely captures one's attention. Like Kim Tomsic, I really liked the opening spread. There is something welcoming and warm to it, especially after the preceding deep pink and orange end and title pages. Topped off with a touch of humor in the playful monkey taking Lawrence's hat.

Text ©Kim Tomsic, 2021. Image © Hadley Hooper, 2021.

With spare text and wonderfully intricate illustrations Kim and Hadley Hooper take the reader on a tour of the amazing 11,000 acre home/animal refuge which Lawrence and Françoise built for themselves and thousands of animals. They welcomed all animals, including crocodiles, spitting snakes (cobras?), bark spiders, and mischievous monkeys.

When they received an urgent appeal for help with a "herd of angry elephants," who had been bullied and hunted, they opened their hearts and Thula Thula and offered them a home.

Text ©Kim Tomsic, 2021. Image © Hadley Hooper, 2021.

The sad, worried, and scared elephants arrive at Thula Thula and soon break the Boma's fencing and escape. Fleeing straight toward waiting hunters. After some intense moments, and a standoff between Lawrence and Nana, Lawrence patiently and lovingly tells them "I live with you by day and camp with you by night. I will stay with you, and you will not be alone." The nearly monochromatic palate of the images changes when Nana makes an extra-ordinary gesture and accepts Lawrence and his assurance that the herd was safe - and home.

Text ©Kim Tomsic, 2021. Image © Hadley Hooper, 2021.

Hadley beautifully captures the joy of the elephants as they "graze....splash and play, move about the yard, and explore throughout the expanse of Thula Thula. Years later, completing a perfect circle, the elephants return Lawrence's favor and caring to Françoise - circling the house they "live with Françoise by day and camp with her by night. They stay with her, and she is not alone."

Craft Note: I love the simple refrain that Kim built into the story - "The elephants COME." And how Hadley set the phrase apart each time on the recto side of the spread. Then instead of changing the refrain at the end, which many will do for climactic effect, Kim tweaks it in the middle of the story to - "The elephants stay." And then circles back to the refrain to create a poignant, touching ending.

This is a wonderful, touching true story of the amazing connection, respect, and love shared between Lawrence, Françoise, and a herd of elephants. An amazing story of the care and devotion of two conservationists dedicated to preserving all life, especially endangered species. An author's note and works cited section add to the great STEM nonfiction book about a special friendship.


- make your own origami elephant herd (

- do you think Nana and the other elephants understood what Lawrence was telling them? Why or why not?

- what songs do you think Lawrence sang to the elephants? What would you have sung?

- if you could create your own preserve, what would it look like and what animals would live there? Draw a picture or write a story about your preserve.

If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Kim Tomsic (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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