PPBF: When Elephant met Giraffe by Paul Gude

When Elephant Met Giraffe
Written and illustrated by Paul Gude
Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, Ages 3-5
Theme: friendship

2014 September 010

For children, September is about back to school, settling into routines, and making new friends.  But how do you become friends with someone who is very different from you?  Paul Gude’s new book When Elephant Met Giraffe is a funny, upbeat collection of simple short stories that will entertain young readers while helping to answer that question.

Opening/synopsis:  Early in the morning Elephant bounces out of bed, eager to get to the water hole with her puffy pink polka-dotted floaty.  At the water hole she meets Giraffe, who doesn’t say hello or answer any of Elephant’s many, many questions.  In fact, Giraffe says nothing at all.  Elephant leaves in a huff, but then spends some time reading about giraffes.  What she learns leads her back to the water hole and paves the way to a wonderful new friendship.

Gude’s digital illustrations are cheerful and bright, thickly outlined in black with minimal detail. Clear blue sky, rolling green hills and pale tan sand provide a simple static backdrop that draws attention to the expressions on the animal’s faces.  Did you look carefully at the cover and see “Elephant” in thick blocky gray letters while “Giraffe” is written in narrow yellow and brown spotted text?  Clever!

After the two new pals paddle in the water hole, their second story is about making pretzels, and a big mess, while cooperating.  The third chapter (The Bossy Pirate) is a delightful tale of finding ways to compromise during an imaginative round of dress-up.  Each story, though brief, is humorous and well-paced while the lessons are understated and subtle.  The text is simple enough to work as an early reader for older kids as well as a funny storybook for the preschool set.

Why I Like This Book: Elephant and Giraffe are appealing and relatable in their child-like enthusiasm and sense of adventure, yet they are distinctly different characters.  Elephant is consistently bubbly and upbeat, throwing herself wholeheartedly into every activity.  Giraffe plays counterpoint as a reserved, gentle soul who will particularly appeal to shy or introverted readers.  Together, they are a dynamite duo!


  • Find out if giraffes really can make sounds by watching this video from the Myth Crew!
  • Compare the buddies in this book to Mo Willem’s popular Elephant and Piggie series.
  • Check out nonfiction books to read more about the differences between elephants and giraffes!

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Portions of this review first appeared in North Shore Children & Families, September 2014. Read your issue online here.


About Cathy Ballou Mealey

Children's book author, repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, alumna, autism advocate, book reviewer. Reach me via email at cmealey@post.harvard.edu or Twitter @catballoumealey
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40 Responses to PPBF: When Elephant met Giraffe by Paul Gude

  1. Catherine Johnson says:

    This sounds fab, Cathy!

  2. rnewman504 says:

    Cathy, Great review! Sounds like a wonderful book. Love the cover illustration.

  3. Joanna says:

    Three stories in one sounds fun. Love that elephant learns all about giraffes and the book helps him have more empathy!

    • There’s also an unrelated elephant/giraffe fable about diversity Joanna – do you know it? About how they have to learn to build a house that will suit them both (tall, narrow, wide, large). Must look it up!

  4. Wendy says:

    Love the resources, Cathy! The video got me laughing. It’s another myth, just like What Does the Fox Say?

  5. Elephants and giraffes are the themes many young mother are using in their nurseries. And, I’ve seen board books to accompany the theme. This book is an ideal selection. I especially love how the elephant decides to learn more about giraffes so that he can develop a friendship. Great video.

  6. tinamcho says:

    Sounds cute, especially making pretzels together!

  7. Sue Wang says:

    How fun to show kids different personalities. Then I think, we all have a bit of elephant and giraffe in us, ;).

  8. Sounds so cute! Can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

  9. These characters sound like my own kids – must rush off to the library myself!

  10. I LOVE that cover! So cute. The book sounds wonderful. I will check it out. Thanks for telling me about it.

  11. beleyne says:

    Sounds fabulous. I bet my class would love it. I’d like to hear their comparisons with Elephant and Piggie:)

  12. Ordering now… 😉 LOVE the cover!

  13. Very cute looking book and loved the review. Loved also the elephants empathy towards the giraffe. Thanks Cathy!

  14. This sounds delightful, Cathy! It reminds me a little of George and Martha, with the 3 separate little stories. I must definitely read this one! Thanks so much for adding it to our list 🙂

  15. What a great book for every child, young and old, who needs to/wants to learn to get along with other and make friends. I love your resource/activity list, Cathy. Thanks for sharing such a gem. 🙂

  16. Darshana says:

    Great review. Will have to check this one out!

  17. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    Very interesting. I’ll have to run this through the Enzo test. We love friendship stories.

  18. LovableLobo says:

    Love the cover and sounds super cute! Thanks for bringing this and the great educational video to our attention. We’ve had the opportunity to feed giraffes and that prehensile tongue is just bizarre! ~Cathy

  19. M Coughlan says:

    I’m always on the look out for books about elephants and this one sounds really special. And I sooo agree about kids learning to research using books not just the internet… or at least being a discerning researcher, whichever method they use!

    • I love elephant books as well! I can also recommend a wonderful new nonfiction book for adults by Vicki Croke called “Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II”.

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