Books It's Monday What Are You Reading Literary Silk Road - China and Middle East Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Multicultural Birthday Celebrations of Larry the American Dog and Marcel the Elephant in “Larry and Friends” and “The Memory Of An Elephant”


Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Award Winning Books Reading Challenge for 2015 (#AWBRead2015)! It’s that time of the year to set new reading goals for the coming year.


Here is the sign up page and the May-June linky if you already have reviews up. One randomly-selected participant would receive a copy of Lone Wolf, courtesy of Pansing books.


Click here to view my announcement post to learn more details.


These two animal-themed picturebooks celebrate the beauty of friendship that transcends cultural boundaries (a few animal friends are also from China and the Middle East – making it perfect for our reading theme), and whimsy, random factoids and gorgeous design and art.

IMG_1572The Memory Of An Elephant: An Unforgettable Journey

Written by: Sophie Strady Illustrated by: Jean-Francois Martin
Published by: Chronicle Books, 2014 (English Translation Copyright)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Marcel is a very old elephant who seems to be going a tad forgetful as he couldn’t even remember what day it was when he woke up in the morning.


As the story progresses, the reader sees that Marcel is no ordinary elephant. He is well-dressed, enjoys dining on gourmet cuisine from all over the world – very sophisticated taste buds:


quite fastidious when it comes to his bath, and pretty learned and artistic as well. He also used to be an internationally recognized musician and has traveled the world on concert tours. Marcel even visited a geographer cousin in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam and stayed there for several months before journeying to France to tend the trees in the Luxembourg Gardens.


This is an oversized book that I believe would be appreciated more for its book design and its art rather than the actual storyline or the narrative which in itself is quite sparse. The assortment of random facts about elephants, musical instruments, plants and birds, and the various outfits of a dapper gentleman Elephant contributed to the whimsy feel of the book that clearly defy categorization, but simply explodes with great fun playing with themed words and their meanings, the etymology of something as random as a vintage computer, and helpful facts about Larry’s friends who happen to be rare and endangered. A few of them actually come from China and simply visited Marcel for his birthday:


When Marcel realized that it was actually his birthday, all his friends from around the world gathered together to help him celebrate his memories and a life that clearly is well-lived.


Larry And FriendsIMG_1535

Written by: Nat Jaspar Created and Illustrated by: Carla Torres
Published by: Tangerine Books, 2014
Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

Larry and Friends has the same celebratory narrative with Larry the American dog spending his birthday with his multi-ethnic friends such as Cecilia the Peruvian llama, Sumita the Indian elephant, and even Pedro the Ecuadorian guinea pig who can only afford to give Larry a call since he can not travel internationally when his father made a mistake in the immigration forms, leaving the guinea pig without papers. I chuckled out loud several times as I was reading how Nat Jaspar and Carla Torres captured the essence of each of Larry’s friends that go beyond just mere caricatures contingent on their ethnicity but infused with their very own distinctive traits making them full-bodied and authentic creatures.


Naturally, Larry has a friend who was originally from China: Fu, the Chinese Dragon. I like how immigration is treated here as a matter of fact:

His father, who was born in Beijing and immigrated to New York before Fu was born, taught him everything about acupuncture, and also explained to him that most people get sick from fear. “Fear – especially fear of change – is your own worst enemy, my son,” he used to caution Fu in his native Mandarin. “And what is life, after all, but change?”

There is also the very beautiful Laila, the Iranian Cat.


In her native Iran, people stared at her because of her eyes (slightly too intense). Or because of the hijab she used to cover her head (always slightly off center). Or because of her being an entomologist – after all, most cats are supposed to hunt insects, not study them.

Tired of always feeling slightly out of place, she accepted an offer to work at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. She thought that in a city so huge she would certainly get lost in the crowd. But again people stared at her – this time because of her grace and beauty. With time, Laila has learned to accept this fact. The important thing is always to be yourself, no matter who stares at you.

This is a refreshing multicultural read; one that deserves to be in any bibliophile’s bookshelf.

Currently Reading…

Before leaving for Manila, I did good on my intention to finish two books:

Crossover by Kwame Alexander and Neil Gaiman’s Endless Nights.

My family and I just arrived at the beach yesterday! Hooray!


While Boracay is a bit crowded and not as pristine as it used to be, I really love staying at Fridays resort and the quiet it provides – far from the madding crowd in Stations 2 and 3.

While waiting for our 6 am flight yesterday, I was reading Catherynne Valente’s The Boy Who Lost Fairyland while my 13 year old girl finished reading The Wild Book by Margarita Engle, which she loved.


For this week, I am hoping to finish the fourth novel in the Fairyland series and start on our book club novel: This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein.


My daughter is enraptured with Wattpad – she is reading an 84-chapter novel and can not seem to tear herself away from it. Do you read wattpad? How does this work, really?


How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading? Are you doing #bookaday this summer?

8 comments on “[Monday Reading] Multicultural Birthday Celebrations of Larry the American Dog and Marcel the Elephant in “Larry and Friends” and “The Memory Of An Elephant”

  1. The Elephant book was indeed a beautiful and unique book but unfortunately proved to be a hard sale. I wish I had time to actually read it.


  2. Unfortunately, my library doesn’t have Larry and Friends, which sounds delightful, Myra. The Elephant Book looks interesting, & like you write, something to ‘see’. Glad you are having such a wonderful vacation. I just looked up WattPad-interesting, reminds me of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. Thanks for all!


  3. Enjoy the beauty on vacation! 🙂 Can’t wait to read The Crossover…


  4. I think Marcel looks a bit like Amos McGee!
    Your vacation pictures are gorgeous! Quite jealous!


  5. Looks like a wonderful place for a vacation! #bookaday is keeping me busy, as is catching up with regular life now that the school year has ended. Looking forward to some more reading time!


  6. Thanks for sharing – so many good books to read. I will have to look for The Wild Book by Margarita Engle. I don’t know this one.


  7. Both of these picture books look lovely. I really want to find a copy of Larry And Friends. I love the premise and the pictures you shared. I look forward to read your comments on Crossover.


  8. crbrunelle

    I hope to find Larry and Friends. It looks lovely and unique too.


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