Ellie is the heartwarming tale of a little elephant, Ellie, who wants to help her friends find a way to save their home. Ellie’s story shows that even someone who may be small and unsure of how she might fit in can make a huge impact.
Ellie and her friends—Gerard the gorilla, Lucy the giraffe, and some monkeys (who remain unnamed in the book)—live in a zoo. Ellie begins on a bright winter day when zookeeper Walt announces that the zoo is closing.
After the announcement, Ellie and her friends gather to come up with a plan to save the zoo. They decide to “spruce it up.” So they begin cleaning the zoo. But everywhere Ellie tries to help, she is either too little, or the work has already been done.
With a sad look on her face, Ellie searches for Walt so she can ask him to give her a job to do. She finds him painting a building, but before she can ask to be put to work, Walt is called away.
Ellie picks up the paintbrush Walt was holding and decides to give painting a try. Sure enough, she’s a natural—she paints a beautiful sunflower on the side of the building before Walt returns!
When Walt sees her creation, he runs to get more colors for her. Soon, people come from far and wide to see what she can do.
Now, I admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for rainbows—put a rainbow in a book and I’m apt to fall in love with it. Sure enough, as soon as I saw Ellie running alongside a wall painting a rainbow, with a big smile on her face, I was hooked. I didn’t even need to see whether the zoo was saved in the end (I won’t spoil the ending for you—you’ll just have to read it for yourself)!
Ellie was written and illustrated by Mike Wu, who is an animator for Pixar. At Pixar, Mr. Wu worked on The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, and Toy Story 3, among other movies.
Mr. Wu created the illustrations in Ellie using paper, watercolors, pencil, and gouache. His use of space on the page is particularly effective. The book begins with some full-color* spreads. A few pages later, sad Ellie is alone on the page, surrounded by grey and white.
*I’ve put an asterisk next to “full-color” because the pictures at the beginning of the book look like they are full-color—there’s green grass, a little blue for some water, the yellow and brown giraffe, and so on—until Ellie begins to add color in her painting. Then, all of a sudden, there are pinks and purples and reds. And the sky is blue, instead of white as in the beginning of the book. The contrast between the beginning and end of the book makes clear that the early illustrations are not as full-color as they first appear. Compare the paintings of the entrance of the zoo on the two inside covers for a great example of the change in colors.
I read a lovely quote attributed to Mr. Wu about his book in a post called “Fall in Love with ‘Ellie’: A Picture Book by Mike Wu” on International Examiner, which you can read here.
IE: What do you want your readers to take away from the book?
Wu: That everyone has a talent or is good at something. Some find theirs sooner than others but if we work hard and are patient, we can find the one thing we were meant to do and be happy.
Mr. Wu’s website is www.theartofmikewu.com. On his site, you can even buy a signed print of Ellie painting that beautiful rainbow!
Have you read any great books lately?