School Library Journal - Mela and the Elephant
In this new Thai fable, Mela learns the virtue of kindness. After spurning her brother’s request to accompany her on a river adventure, Mela becomes lost in the jungle surrounding Thailand’s Ping River. One by one, she offers her belongings to the creatures of the jungle in exchange for their assistance in finding her way home. “ ‘Leopard I am lost…..You can have my sweater. It will keep your cubs warm on cool nights.’ Mela held her sweater out for the leopard to see. But the leopard snatched it up and leaped away.” Only after she has nothing left to offer does the elephant come to her aid, showing that reciprocity is not necessary; kindness is its own reward. The illustrations are mostly spreads in muted jungle colors. Mela, her brother, and the animals are in a cartoon style with minimal detail, but not without a guileless charm. The font is black or white, depending on the background, and with the exception of a purple-lettered maxim highlighted on the final page, offers nothing additional to the story. An author’s note about Thailand offers general information and adds context and perspective to Buddhist interpretations of gifts and gratitude. VERDICT This simply told, pleasant story extolling the virtue of unconditional kindness should be welcomed in school and public libraries.