Mela and the Elephant Multicultural Children’s Book Day Review

posted on February 14, 2019 by Eve Panzer

Mela and the Elephant is a contemporary folktale set in Thailand which teaches the merits of kindness. The main character, Mela, is a plucky young girl who sets out one day to see the sights along Ping River near her home. She refuses to allow her younger brother to join her, because “He had nothing to offer.” When Mela uses her uncle’s boat to catch a big fish she spies in the river, she gets caught up in the swift current and ends up deep in the jungle. Mela meets a crocodile, a leopard, and some monkeys on her journey. She asks the animals to help her find her way home, and they consent to help if Mela gives them something in return. As she gives up her possessions one by one to the animals, they all run off with her gift without helping her. In the end, she meets an elephant who is happy to show her the way home and asks for nothing in return. The last page of the book delivers the message of the story: “Kindness needs no reward, for it brings happiness and warmth to the heart.”

This book includes several of the elements that I look for in a good multicultural children’s book. A relatable main character, a meaningful message that reflects the values of the culture depicted, and the inclusion of elements from that culture. (In this book we see traditional clothing and homes.) With the high demand for diverse children’s books, I feel this book does fit the need. However, there are few elements that I think would have elevated this book.

The story appears to take place in present times – the backpack gives it a modern feel. I would have liked the story to have taken place in an unspecified time in the past for several reasons. I believe that more elements of the culture would have been easier to incorporate into the story. And the interaction between Mela and the animals would have felt more suitable if the story was more of a “Once upon a time” folktale.

Endnote materials for children’s books, especially multicultural books, is invaluable. Details that would disturb the flow of the story can be included making the book a richer experience. So, I was happy to see the author’s notes included in this book. However, I feel the material could have been presented in a more appealing way. The two full pages of text are more daunting than engaging. Breaking up the information into shorter paragraphs and including illustrations and maps would be more visually enticing. I feel that an opportunity was lost here to keep the audience’s interest and deliver more information about the culture.

Despite these drawbacks, this book is useful for its positive message and a peek into the culture of Thailand. It serves as an introduction to a unit on Thailand and its culture.

Thank you to Sleeping Bear Press for providing a free hardback copy for my review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board!

*View our 2019 Medallion Sponsors here:
*View our 2019 MCBD Author Sponsors here:

Medallion Level Sponsors

Honorary: Children’s Book Council, The Junior Library Guild,

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat Babies, Candlewick Press, Chickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcito, KidLitTV, Lerner Publishing Group, Plum Street Press,

SILVER: Capstone Publishing, Carole P. Roman, Author Charlotte Riggle, Huda Essa, The Pack-n-Go Girls,

BRONZE: Charlesbridge Publishing, Judy Dodge Cummings, Author Gwen Jackson, Kitaab World, Language Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ Languages, Lee & Low Books, Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, Redfin, Author Gayle H. Swift, T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s Daughter, TimTimTom Books, Lin Thomas, Sleeping Bear Press/Dow Phumiruk, Vivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board

Honorary: Julie Flett, Mehrdokht Amini,

Author Janet Balletta, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Josh Funk, Chitra Soundar, One Globe Kids – Friendship Stories, Sociosights Press and Almost a Minyan, Karen Leggett, Author Eugenia Chu, CultureGroove Books, Phelicia Lang and Me On The Page, L.L. Walters, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Hayley Barrett, Sonia Panigrah, Author Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing Dreidels, Author Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu Kid, Tara Williams, Veronica Appleton, Author Crystal Bowe, Dr. Claudia May, Author/Illustrator Aram Kim, Author Sandra L. Richards, Erin Dealey, Author Sanya Whittaker Gragg, Author Elsa Takaoka, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo, Anita Badhwar, Author Sylvia Liu, Feyi Fay Adventures, Author Ann Morris, Author Jacqueline Jules, CeCe & Roxy Books, Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, LEUYEN PHAM, Padma Venkatraman, Patricia Newman and Lightswitch Learning, Shoumi Sen, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci Sorell, Shereen Rahming, Blythe Stanfel, Christina Matula, Julie Rubini, Paula Chase, Erin Twamley, Afsaneh Moradian, Lori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls Revolution, Soulful Sydney, Queen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Biracial Bookworms, Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon Reads, Educators Spin on it, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin Lee, Jump Into a Book, Imagination Soup,Jenny Ward’s Class, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Raising Race Conscious Children, Shoumi Sen, Spanish Playground

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party. GO HERE for more details.


Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians & Educators:

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Raves & Praise from educators and readers about Eve Panzer, the Barefoot Librarian:

A favorite resource we use everyday in our preschool is a beautiful book! We love to share the joy and excitement of engaging stories to help the children make deep connections to their exploration and learning. The Barefoot Librarian offers THE best selection of books in a full range of topics and targeted age groups to appeal to children of all ages.

-Community School Director, Four Seasons