Sherry Ellis Discusses Don’t Feed the Elephant
Interview sponsored by Sherry Ellis
The Children’s Book Review | April 4, 2018
Don’t Feed the Elephant boasts some seriously messy fun with food! The snacks shared with the elephant throughout the tale are alphabetized. Was this always your intention? Or was this an added element that just fell into place as you wrote the story?
Yes, my intention was to write an alphabet book. The first thing I did was come up with a list of foods from A-Z. Then I thought about what the elephant could do with each food item. The funny thing, is that it’s so subtle that a lot people don’t pick up on it unless it’s pointed out. One person read the book and said she was so involved with the story that she didn’t even notice it was in alphabetical order.
What was the original inspiration for writing this zany picture book?
Sherry Ellis: I wanted to create an alphabet book that would make children laugh. An elephant popped into my head. I have no idea why. It just happened. Then I started thinking about food. (Maybe I was hungry?) What could the elephant do with food? I had a blast coming up with the various scenarios. I figured kids would enjoy the antics of the elephant.
Most stories are open to interpretation and there are a few different themes that can be taken from a reading of this tale. What do you think most readers will take away from reading Don’t Feed the Elephant?
I’ve read this story to many kids both individually and as part of library story times. They all seem to pick up on the message that you shouldn’t feed wild animals. That’s probably the most obvious theme. But they also get that playing with food might not always be a good idea.
The colorful cartoon-style illustrations bring extra playfulness to the story. How did you come to work with illustrator Md. Anwar?
Anwar is an illustrator with ePublishing eXperts. I have been long-time friends with the owner of the company, and I finally decided to work with him to produce a book.
Can you share a little bit about the author and illustrator collaboration?
I had a lot of input on the illustrations. In fact, I provided sketches of what the elephant might be doing on each page. I also provided input about adding the sidekick characters that are present in the illustrations. Md. Anwar took my ideas and brought them to life. He’s a very talented artist. I especially love the color choices he made. They’re so bright and vibrant–perfect for a children’s book.
We felt vibes of Laura Numeroff’s ever-popular If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (HarperCollins, 1985) and Judy Barrett’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1978) while reading Don’t Feed the Elephant. Are these books that you feel have influenced you as a writer?
I’m sure they have in some way. I’m very familiar with both books. Certainly, all of Laura Numeroff’s books answer the “what if” question: If you give an animal something, what’s it going to do? That’s what I’ve done in Don’t Feed the Elephant. I can also see where the food aspect of my book can remind someone of Judy Barrett’s book, where things are just a little out-of-control!
As you are an award-winning author, can you tell us a little bit about some of your other work?
Don’t Feed the Elephant is my fourth picture book. Ten Zany Birds, That Mama is a Grouch, and That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN are my other published works. Ten Zany Birds and That Mama is a Grouch are the recipients of several awards.
On your journey to becoming an author, what has been the best and worst advice you have received?
The best advice was to join a critique group. I’ve learned so much from the other talented writers I’ve worked with. The worst? Probably advice from people who have tried to convince me that writing was something I shouldn’t waste my time with because I’ll never make a decent income doing it. Sure, I realize that most likely I won’t get rich from a career as an author. That’s why I have another job. But it’s still something I enjoy, and a creative outlet. The advice to quit is not something I’m going to take.
If you could sum up your life in a book title, what would the name of the book be?
The Road Less Travelled. I’ve always gone off the beaten path, both figuratively and literally. I love exploring, and I also tend to do things that most people wouldn’t. I’ve been a SCUBA instructor. I’ve jumped out of an airplane. I’ve chosen a career path as a musician and writer. It’s made life very interesting.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us about yourself, your writing, or Don’t Feed the Elephant?
I’m very excited that my first middle grade book, Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China, is being published by Dancing Lemur Press and will be released on September 4, 2018.
Written by Sherry Ellis
Illustrated by Md. Anwar
Publisher’s Synopsis: This charming new children’s story by award-winning author Sherry Ellis won’t just entertain kids with its hilarious descriptions and zany main character. It will also educate them about the alphabet and help them learn the order of letters. As the elephant works his way through foodstuffs, each new dish features a new letter of the alphabet. From animal crackers to zebra cakes, the elephant is enthusiastic to gobble everything up, even when it lands him in hot water!
The narrator starts off by warning the readers that you should never, ever feed the elephant, even if he says, “Pretty please with sugar on top!” Everything the elephant eats just ends up turning into a huge mess. He’ll give you gooey chocolate kisses after eating brownies, fire animal crackers out of his trunk, and juggle eggs and French fries at the same time. The elephant is more interested in throwing hamburgers like Frisbees and using noodles as jump ropes than having a proper meal. You can’t stay mad at him for too long, however. His adorable antics will entertain both you and all the little elephants you share them with!
“Filled with colorful cartoon-style illustrations by Md. Anwar, Don’t Feed the Elephant is a bright and entertaining picture book . . .” —The Children’s Book Review
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1974426645
About the Author
Sherry Ellis is an award-winning author and professional musician from Atlanta, Georgia. She plays and teaches the violin, viola, and piano. Ellis has previously published Ten Zany Birds; That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN; and That Mama Is a Grouch.
Ellis, her husband, and their two children live in Atlanta. For more information about her work, she invites you to visit her website at www.sherryellis.org.
The Author Showcase is a place for authors and illustrators to gain visibility for their works. This interview was sponsored by Sherry Ellis, the author of ‘Don’t Feed the Elephant.’ Discover more great writing and illustrating artists in our Showcase.