Zola’s Elephant is one of those books that should have its own rating system. Maybe it is an apple. I like apples, but I prefer grapes. The story is three and a half apples while the illustrations are four apples. I like Zola’s Elephant, but I think I prefer other treats more.
The story has the usual feel of being classic, modern, European and American all at once. It has no real time frame of when it is set but has a very “today” feel to it. The whole book also has a combination of surreal and solid realism, too. Part dream and part wide-awake the story might be better for older children and adults. I am not sure if the under 5 crowd would grasp the contrast of what the narrator thinks is happening and what is really happening. Yet, I am sure the older child, and adult, can relate to the “well this is probably what is happening” due to the lack of actual facts.
However, Randall de Seve knows their stuff. They know how to make you want to keep going and find out if the two characters will be friends. The text is strong, without be overpowering. You move along towards the end knowing that things should work out, yet, you still wonder.
Pamela Zagarenski’s illustrations are what makes the book a bit more surreal. There is no question to what is going on, but it is not always in “solid” reality. The colors are bleeding into each other yet are solid. As mentioned above everything has a realistic dream-like state to it. It is, in short, a bit of an artistic book and therefore, not going to grab everyone.