Award-winning author and illustrator Katherine Roy recently posted a recipe for Elephant Poop Muffins on her blog that pairs very nicely with her beautifully illustrated book, How to Be An Elephant: Growing up in the African Wild. How about making them for your story hour audience or with your kids who just can’t stop discussing bodily functions? Just be sure to serve them steaming hot. Spoiler alert: there’s no actual poop in the muffins, but hopefully they taste better than they look!
Katherine’s book is about baby elephants — their biology, behavior, and elephant-hood. The reason for the Elephant Poop Muffins is because baby elephants eat – yep! – adult elephant dung, a.k.a poop. Adult elephants’ digestive systems do not absorb nutrients very efficiently, so they eat a LOT of stuff. Half of it gets absorbed and half of it gets dropped onto the ground where it then acts as fertilizer for plants or…food for offspring! It’s one of the amazing elephant facts readers will learn from Katherine’s book. And there’s so many more!
More Amazing Elephant Facts
- A baby elephant develops and grows inside its mother for 22 months
- Elephants live in permanent social groups led by the eldest female
- Adult elephants can reach top speeds of 24 mph
- A fat cushion acting as shock absorber lines the bottom of elephants’ feet, allowing them to tread quietly despite their size
- Elephants’ eyesight is generally poor but their scent is super strong (the trunk is telling!)
- Elephants’ trunks can sense vibrations in the ground
- No one elephant ear is alike; they are unique like human fingerprints
I could go on and on, but the book is way better!
Katherine Roy’s Preparation & Process
Katherine traveled to Kenya for two weeks in 2014 in order to talk to elephant experts and see, touch, hear, and sketch elephants in the wild (and some, I believe, that were in captivity due to injury or illness). Of course she did lots of research before, in between, and likely after the trip, too. Her YouTube account shares awesome videos of her writing and illustrating process. There’s even a video of her jeep getting “bluff charged” (that’s when an elephant charges something in hopes of intimidating it, but pulls back at the last moment) while out in the field doing research. Think about that, though: 2014 trip to 2017 publication – the book process takes a long time, people! She came home with thousands of photos and hundreds of sketches. Then she got started making the actual book.
The full page illustrated spreads interspersed with text-rich pages that often incorporate a hand-drawn diagram, labeled and arrowed, move things along nicely for the reader. The information is turned into “lessons” and one, naturally, leads to the next. Katherine’s art is very fluid and expressive. There is no straight line to be found, nor any solid color. Everything is waves and shades. The style brings emotion to the informational storytelling underway, especially when the reader is faced with the end notes that explain elephants may very likely be extinct in 50 years or less. The marvel of an elephant’s existence is brought to life and then, for those of us who read the author notes, its tempered with their sad reality. One shouldn’t read beautiful books about elephants without understanding elephants’ future. Katherine reminds us, as she should, and provides resources for taking action and learning more.
Here’s a tip from a children’s book geek: keep an eye on Katherine Roy. She’s working hard and making waves. Follow her body of work as it can only grow and blossom from here.
Katherine Roy’s Last Book:
Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farrallon Islands, both written and illustrated by Katherine Roy, won a 2015 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book Award
Published by Roaring Brook / David Macaulay Studio
Released September 30, 2014
Katherine Roy’s Next Book:
Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record Setting Dive of the Bathysphere, written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Katherine Roy
Published by Little, Brown
Releasing June 2018
How to Be an Elephant: Growing up in the African Wild
Written and illustrated by Katherine Roy; Published by Roaring Brook / David Macaulay Studio; © 2017, 48 pages, ISBN 9781626721784
Travel the African landscape while learning about the biology and behavior of a baby pachyderm as she grows and discovers how to be an elephant.
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Oh my goodness, what a wonderful write up, this is one of the most thoughtfully and thoroughly written pieces of coverage of my work that I’ve ever read. Thank you! For your time invested, for your enthusiasm, and for your sharing! ❤️
— Katherine Roy (@KRoyStudio) February 4, 2018