I think Elizabeti, created by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen and illustrated by Christy Hale, is my new favorite picture book character. Elizabeti has been around for a while and is the subject of multiple books by Ms. Stuve-Bodeen, but I just recently discovered her.Elizabeti lives in a village in Tanzania. In Elizabeti’s Doll, Elizabeti decides after watching her Mama take care of a new baby that she wants to take care of a new baby too.
She didn’t have a doll, so she went outside and picked up a stick. She tried to hug it, but it poked her and she dropped it on the ground. Then Elizabeti picked up a rock. It was just the right size to hold and it didn’t poke Elizabeti when she hugged it. She kissed the rock and named it Eva.
Elizabeti does everything for Eva that she sees her Mama do for her new brother Obedi. She gives Eva a bath, she feeds Eva, she keeps Eva’s diaper clean, and she carries Eva around on her back while she does her chores.
When Eva gets lost, Elizabeti is heartbroken. No other rock-dolls can take Eva’s place. Elizabeti is inconsolable until Eva turns up in an unexpected place.
Elizabeti’s adventures continue in Mama Elizabeti, which I haven’t found or read yet. I can’t wait to read this second book of the Elizabeti series!We see Elizabeti again in Elizabeti’s School. Elizabeti is going to school for the first time, so she puts on her new school uniform and shiny new shoes. “No more bare feet! Elizabeti smiled. School must surely be a very special place.”Elizabeti hugs her rock doll Eva, her baby sister, and lets her little brother Obedi give her “a sloppy kiss.”
At school, Elizabeti plays outside with friends until the teacher rings the bell. It is time to go in for class. Elizabeti has trouble paying attention:
The other children started to copy the letters the teacher had written on the blackboard. Elizabeti started to copy them too, but she couldn’t help wondering if Obedi wanted her to take him for a walk or if Eva was feeling lonely, sitting in the corner by herself at home. Elizabeti wondered if they missed her. She was certainly missing them!
By the end of the day, Elizabeti is glad to go home. But she discovers that it is fun to tell her family all the things she has learned at school.
Part of what makes Elizabeti so endearing is the books’ illustrations. The illustrator, Christy Hale, used pictures that Ms. Stuve-Bodeen had from Tanzania for reference. She created fabulous collage paintings for these stories, and has captured Elizabeti perfectly. I love seeing Eva show up again in the pictures in Elizabeti’s School!
Ms. Stuve-Bodeen was inspired to write Elizabeti’s Doll by her experiences serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania. Ms. Stuve-Bodeen won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award for Elizabeti’s Doll.
Ms. Stuve-Bodeen has written a number of picture books since her debut with Elizabeti’s Doll. She also writes middle grade and YA novels under the name S.A. Bodeen. Her website is www.writersabodeen.com.
Have you read any great books lately?