The Memory of an Elephant by Sophie Strady, illustrated by Jean-Francois Martin, Chronicle, 2014. France.
This larger-than-average book (11"x 14") is the perfect format to explore the the life of Marcel, a very old elephant who lives in a high-rise apartment. From his "breakfast of kings"; which includes bananas, fortune cookies and Jell-o; to his recollections of his life that he is putting down in an illustrated encyclopedia Marcel is charming throughout the entirety of this book. In addition to the story, the book is a delightful work of nonfiction. In addition to 10 pages of facts covering everything from instruments to food, the text has facts sprinkled throughout in boxes. This is a book that can be read many ways to suit a variety of readers. Once you have worked up an appetite there is also a recipe for "La Crepe Marcellet" towards the back of the book. The illustrations are soft, with charcoal-like outlines and shading. Red, blue, and of course grey dominate the pages with pops of yellow for contrast. The illustrations make this book truly delightful, from the expressions on Marcel's face to his animal friends hiding on nearly every page. I have seen this book draw in a second and fourth grader for a full thirty minutes as they explored the text and illustrations.
This is a book for independent readers; from second grade through adults. There are so many facets of the text that can be used in classroom setting, such as the two-page spread on all of Marcel's animal friends or the one-page illustration on architecture. For readers who are not interested in fiction, this book does a lovely job of bringing non-fiction and fiction together. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes an interesting story, anyone who likes quick facts, and (of course) animal lovers. While it is true that I have a soft spot for elephants, I believe this book will charm you too.