Oh. How do I even begin to explain the clever, fantastic, intense work of art that is the storytelling in this book? I have been wanting to share it for so long and I am so excited to present it as this Friday feature in this food picture book week.
A story about an elephant, obsessed with noodles and community, who takes on the town’s bossy kangaroos and their unjust noodle laws. Come learn from the puns and pasta that make up Noodlephant by Jacob Kramer and K-Fai Steele, 2019.
First thing you need to about this book is that it is incredible. Second thing you need to know is that it is very long. But the first thing trumps the second thing because the third thing you should know is that children love this book. I mean it. Love. This. Book. We have borrowed this book from the library so many times and it stays on constant request and conversation repeat. It’s time to just go buy our own copy.
Noodlephant is an elephant who loves noodles, dreams about noodles, cooks trunkloads of noodles, and loves to share noodles. She has a community of diverse animal friends in their town, all who love partying with good food together.
Well, not all. The deep pocketed community members are the kangaroos and they basically run the whole town, make all the laws, and are very bossy. Their laws are often deeply unfair and serve only to boost the kangaroos authority and abilities in the town. Noodlephant and her friends know the laws are unjust, but fear the consequences of breaking them; so they get creative in how they live and enjoy life together.
But one day Noodlephant is questioned and forbidden from being herself and enjoying her favorite thing: noodles! Noodlephant tries to follow this new, unjust law against her consumption of noodles, but can’t stand it. She is incredibly inventive with a solution; but is still caught and tried in a kangaroo court where the kangaroos say she had broken the laws.
And then comes my very favorite line of this entire book, one that gives me chills every time I encounter it:
“Noodlephant said the laws were already broken.”
Boom. Noodlephant then delivers some verses about the injustices of the kangaroos’ system and how all should be treated the same.
This gets Noodlephant thrown in the zoo and the story continues its marvelously paced momentum towards the climactic showdown and my children’s favorite part: changing the kangaroos minds and making them “eat their words.” You will have to go get this book to find out exactly what that means and delight in the brilliance and thoughtful civil rights tone of this gem.
If there is one thing I greatly dislike in picture books it is a strong agenda in an overly didactic form. Kids are not stupid and neither are their adults. That is the major reason I adore this book. It has an agenda. But it is an extremely important point and delivered in an awesomely clever way. It is suspenseful. It is dramatic. It is ridiculous and hilarious. And it is completely and thoroughly satisfying in its ending. It is so immensely full of layers it demands being read again and again, savoring the story, but also all the scenes that are eerily familiar and the thought-provoking truths they present.
This books is for kids, understandable, with brilliant storytelling. Kids have a strong sense of justice and will speak out for fairness without qualms. While this book doesn’t shy away from the dangers of speaking up, it handles it well. It is honest, but approachable and not overly scary.
This book is also very much for adults, and people of any age. It is important to think about social issues from a variety of perspectives, and I’m certain I have never thought about civil rights in light of noodles and kangaroos. The change of presentation refreshes the issues at hand and gives an amazing entry-point for talking about it all with everyone.
Go check out Noodlephant as soon as you can. And I also hear rumors that a sequel is forthcoming, which I am very curious to see!