Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Cousins of Clouds: Elephant Poems

Cousins of Clouds: Elephant Poems

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
Illustrator:  Sean Addy , Megan Halsey 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Clarion Books, 2011   ISBN: 978-0618903498

Since ancient times, humans have been fascinated by elephants. There is something about elephants that captures the imagination, and people cannot help being drawn to these large animals with their tiny eyes, large plodding feet, long trunk, and gently swaying walk.

   In this remarkable poetry title, poems, artwork, and sections of informative text are combined to give readers a book that looks elephants in a number of ways. We read about how people in many different cultures have elephants in their mythology. In the poem “Cousins of Clouds” we hear of how, long ago, elephants “were great kings of the sky.” One day the elephants angered a prophet by arguing in his presence. To punish the elephants the prophet cursed them so that their wings shriveled to become “pitiful ears,” and thus elephants became earth bound. Now these “cousins of clouds” can only dream of flying as they flap their ears.

   We hear about two working elephants; one walks down a street in Bangkok surrounded by cars, and another works in Africa, carrying tourists who want to see Africa’s wildlife up close.

   We hear how much an elephant enjoys a mud bath, and how an elephant’s trunk, with its more than forty thousand muscles, allows the animal to use this curious-looking appendage as a finger, a fork, an arm, a nose, and a piece of rope.

   We also learn that elephant females work together to protect their precious babies, caring for them for several years. As one would expect in such intelligent and social animals, elephants have several ways to communicate with one another. In addition to making trumpeting noises with their trunks, elephants can communicate over long distances using low sounds that are “near silent.”

   Using a wide variety of poetic forms the author of this book beautifully shares her affection for elephants with the reader. Each poem focuses on an elephant related topic, and it is accompanied by an illustration and a section of text. The text offers readers further information about the topic that is featured on that page. By the time readers get to the end of the book they are able to see how truly wondrous elephants are and how vital it is to protect and cherish them.