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Elephant and a Little Boy Together Make a Difference for Civil Rights History in Beautiful Picture Book

Updated on January 11, 2019
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Cindy Hewitt is a retired teacher with a passion for children's literature. Read-aloud stories add quality to a child's life experiences.

Fancy the Elephant Helped to Call Attention to a Civil Rights Issue in Alabama

A little boy's love for elephants brings attention to a civil rights issue in Alabama
A little boy's love for elephants brings attention to a civil rights issue in Alabama | Source

A Little Boy's Love for Elephants Brings Attention to a Civil Rights Issue

Irene Latham is a beloved Alabama author who brings the story of Miss Fancy the elephant and a little boy whose love for elephants called attention to a civil rights issue for African-Americans in Alabama to young readers with her new book Meet Miss Fancy. Young readers will learn important history along with sharing love for elephants with Frank.

Frank loves all things about elephants. He often pretends to be an elephant. He draws pictures of elephants. He has never had the opportunity to see a real elephant and the news that a special elephant is being retired from a circus and moving to Avondale Park is very exciting. Frank and his family live just a few blocks away from Avondale Park in Birmingham. The city must raise enough money to bring the elephant to the park. Frank begins a penny collection campaign at his school and the other schools in the area also participate in raising the needed money. Fancy the elephant finally arrives on a train one day and Frank is at the station to greet her. He is breathless with excitement as he catches his first glimpse of a real elephant. His mom takes him to Avondale Park to see Fancy, but there is a problem. He will not be able to feed peanuts to the elephant because the park has a rule that there are no colored people allowed. This is a huge disappointment for Frank. He is only able to see Fancy everyday by climbing a tree. his mom reads the news of Fancy's new adventures to him from the newspaper. Miss Fancy makes a daring escape from the park one day and causes excitement for the neighborhood. Frank has a surprise solution for recapturing Miss Fancy and receives a special reward for helping to get the elephant back to the park. His dream of meeting a real elephant has come true.

Irene Latham includes a special Author's Note at the end of the book. She tells more about the history of Miss Fancy and her time at Avondale Park in Birmingham. John Holyfield contributes his talents as an illustrator with his charming illustrations that depict the story. Meet Miss Fancy was published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin/Random House Publishing. It is recommended for ages 5-8, and has an ISBN of 9780399546686.

Beautiful Illustrations from Notable Black Artist John Holyfield

Frank loves elephants and often pretends to be an elephant
Frank loves elephants and often pretends to be an elephant | Source
No Coloreds Allowed at Avondale Park in 1913.   Frank will not get the opportunity to visit Miss Fancy
No Coloreds Allowed at Avondale Park in 1913. Frank will not get the opportunity to visit Miss Fancy | Source
Frank's dream comes true with surprise reward after Miss Fancy's escape and Frank finds a way to return her to the park
Frank's dream comes true with surprise reward after Miss Fancy's escape and Frank finds a way to return her to the park | Source

Bring Miss Fancy Into Your Classroom for Fun Read and Enhancing Lessons for Young Readers

Picture books are great tools to use in early elementary classrooms to enhance students' interest in reading. Irene Latham's Meet Miss Fancy is one that teachers will want to add to their classroom ;library. This charming picture book and story offers the opportunity to teach brief history lessons, lessons in social responsibility, and lessons to learn about elephants. Young readers will be readily engaged in this story.

*Read Meet Miss Fancy in a group story time reading session. Call attention to Frank and his imaginative play with pretending to be an elephant. You might want to provide art materials for students to make elephant trunks for imaginative play later after reading the story.

*Use the story to have a class discussion of the brief history of civil rights issues. How have things changed through the years for African-Americans in our country? This might be an interesting story to begin a discussion when we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday in February. I often used picture books with African-American characters during the month of February when we celebrated Black History month.

*How did Frank's love for elephants finally make his dream come true and he was able to actually get a ride on Miss Fancy?

* Prepare a study of elephants for your students as an enhancement for interest in reading this story.

Miss Fancy in the Classroom

How would you use the story in your classroom?

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© 2019 Cindy Hewitt


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