Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
Once Upon a Dance never ceases to impress and amaze with their performing arts series for children. “Eka and the Elephants” definitely lives up to expectations as a cute and fun-to-follow children's book.
First and foremost, the art in this book is phenomenal. The strokes are short and deliberate. There's a “waviness” or “cloudiness” to the paintings, making the images appear almost dreamlike. The stars of the show, Eka and her purple elephant friend, are beautifully and cutely portrayed, as is Ballerina Konora, who returns to demonstrate dance movements for the reader.
Ballerina Konora really shines in this. One thing that makes her presence even more effective than usual is that the individual dance movements are broken down into very small pieces, usually into three, four, or five parts. That makes it easier to follow than some other dance books which will often show you the “end pose” or the “start pose” and little else.
If there's any issue that consistently keeps popping up with books in the series, it's just simply their wordiness. Indeed, about half of this book is prose. This can make the first reading (or two) a bit slower and more challenging than most children's books. However, the authors had the presence of mind to invite the reader to “settle in and enjoy the pictures the first time through.” And that's actually very good advice. After that, you could actually choose to read either the text in the white space to just follow the cute little story or the text in the purple elephant graphic to follow the dance movements with Ballerina Konora.
So, in a sense, there's more than one way to read this book, and it's really up to you as the reader. If you're a parent or teacher, you could presumably read this a few times and learn the gist of what's going on, then go through it with your child or student. It does require you to be a little prepared to follow and teach. It's challenging to just try to swallow it all in one big gulp the first time. But you know what they say: the way to eat an elephant is one little bite at a time.
Ok, well, maybe we shouldn't be talking about eating elephants with a cute children's book like this, but you get the idea.
We were probably a bit too harsh in focusing so much on the wordiness because the writing is actually quite good and helpful. The authors constantly make effective usage of imagery, similes, and metaphors. You are encouraged to reenact a scene “like” the characters, responding the way they would respond. You're directed to pretend to perform the actions that the characters are performing like picking peas, climbing, or opening a curtain.
And the story and its characters are just so warm, lighthearted, and silly sometimes. There's a scene in which a bunch of hungry, goofy elephants just come in and start tossing the cabbages around because they don't know any better. They act like a bunch of cats! Eka and her purple elephant are such a great duo and truly seem to make each other happier. You can tell from the pictures and the writing that their friendship is very powerful. Another thing that's beautiful is the portrayal of teamwork, not only between Eka and her elephant but also between Eka and her family.
So, all in all, this is a very worthwhile read if you have a child who might be interested in dance! It is arguably more advanced than “dance stance” but is still appropriate for first-timers or even more advanced dancers to try!
Check it out!