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  • Published: 4 May 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143775645
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $21.00

My Elephant Is Blue

An award-winning, quirky story about a child who is stuck carrying around an elephant, wondering if they will ever feel light and free again . . .

A story full of humour and heart about having the blues, in the form of a big heavy elephant.

One day an elephant came and sat on my chest.
I found it hard to get up or move around, to breathe or talk.

“I’m Blue,” the elephant said.
“Can you please move, Blue?” I asked.
“I don’t want to move. This is a good spot for me to sit.”

“You’re crushing me,” I said.
“Yet I find you very comfortable,” said Blue.

Mum read every book about elephants she could get her hands on, while Dad phoned an elephant specialist someone recommended. They all tried pushing, and pulling, and persuading. But would anyone — or anything — be able to shift Blue?

Warm, empathetic, hopeful and often funny, with the ability to be read on different levels, My Elephant is Blue is the perfect story to help children explore and understand the experience of living under the weight of a big sadness.

  • Published: 4 May 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143775645
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $21.00

About the authors

Melinda Szymanik

Born when the Beatles were big, Melinda’s early ambitions to be a pirate and a time traveller didn’t pan out. She decided she would write these careers into stories instead, and set about becoming an author. Writing is a long apprenticeship, however, and it wasn’t until 2002 that she had her first story accepted for publication. Melinda describes the author’s life as rather like traversing the Himalayas. Reaching the top is only ever a brief experience before one must head on down the other side again and onto attempting the next mountain.
Melinda writes picture books, short stories and novels for children and young adults. She has won a number of awards for her work - her picture book, The Were-Nana, won the New Zealand Post Children’s Choice Award in 2009, and was shortlisted for the 2010 Sakura Medal. Her novel, A Winter's Day in 1939, won Librarian's Choice at the 2014 LIANZA Awards and her picture book Fuzzy Doodle, was a 2017 White Raven Selection.
In 2023, she was awarded the Michael King Writers Centre Shanghai Residency.
Melinda lives in Auckland with her family, and loves watching movies, eating out with her favourite people, and travelling abroad when the stars are aligned. She strongly believes that you can never have too many books, and you can never be too kind.

Vasanti Unka

Vasanti Unka is an award-winning writer, designer and illustrator noted for the originality of her storytelling, her riotously colourful and inventive illustrations and the gorgeous design and production of her picture books.

Vasanti is the illustrator of Hill & Hole by Kyle Mewburn, which was shortlisted for the Best Picture Book award at the 2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Hill & Hole won the LIANZA Russell Clark Award the same year and was also the first children's book to win the Gerard Reid Award for Best Book at the PANZ Book Design Awards.

The Boring Book (Puffin 2013), which Vasanti wrote, illustrated and designed, was named the 2014 New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and also took out the Best Picture Book Award category. The judges described it as 'a remarkable book that exceeds any expectations of its genre. It exhibits the highest quality of design and its presentation is thoroughly original. The story takes delightful unexpected turns that charm afresh with each reading. Small children and older readers alike will be delighted by its subversive touches and entertained by its warmth and fun.' It also won international acclaim with its inclusion in the 2014 White Ravens Catalogue and in 2016 was named an IBBY Honour Book for the excellence of its illustrations.

Stripes! No, Spots!, published by Puffin in 2015 and described by poet Paula Green as 'scrumptious in every way', was lauded as a 2016 Storylines Notable Picture Book and was simultaneously published in the UK and US.

Who Stole the Rainbow?, a humorous, genre-spanning scientific mystery-thriller for children about how rainbows appear and disappear, was published in 2018. It was a finalist for the Best Picture Book category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2019.

I am the Universe, published in 2020, shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Russell Clark Award for Illustration 2021 and won the 2021 NZSA Heritage Literary Award and the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Children’s Book. The judges praised its ‘Wonderful illustrations' and 'vibrant descriptions ... the themes are particularly poignant as they remind us of our universal connectivity.’

I am the Universe
went on to win the PANZ Book Design Awards Best Children's Book 2021 and was a finalist in the Best Typography category. Judge Ant Sang called it '...a book which readers can enjoy over and over, and find something new to discover each time. Fun and imaginative throughout, the large format perfectly suits the scale of the subject. Readers can’t help but feel transported on a joyous journey from the first to last page.'

In August 2021 Vasanti was also awarded the Arts Foundation Mallinson Rendel Laureate Award for Illustration.

Vasanti lives in Auckland, New Zealand, where she juggles author, school visits, creative work, postgraduate study and numerous book projects.

Praise for My Elephant Is Blue

My Elephant is Blue is a magnificent picture book about mental health, that is bursting with empathy and positivity. This is the kind of book that every family should have on their bookshelves, for those days when anyone feels a little blue...It will create some good conversations and help children to understand their emotions. It will also give them some strategies to try when they are feeling blue. It will help children to become more empathetic, as it will help them to understand how others feel.

Zac McCallum, My Best Friends are Books

[A]n exquisite combination of words and images, story and illustration...significant, genius, beautiful.

Paula Green, Poetry Box

My Elephant is Blue is a beautiful, locally produced picture book which can be read to preschoolers and primary schoolers suffering from anxiety and depression - as well as to those who don’t, in order to generate understanding... The text is carefully chosen and appropriately paced, and the illustrations are engaging and gorgeous. A gentle, soothing, mood-booster.

Stacey Anyan, NZ Booklovers

We’ve all had the ‘elephant’ of sadness laying heavily across us, or the blues at some time in our lives. That heavy feeling that just won’t leave, despite encouragement from siblings, favourite foods or friendly advice, is universal. My Elephant is Blue is a wonderful way to explain these feelings to children 5 and up. The use of an exotic animal and the colour blue is an eye catching and imaginative device to also attract younger children. The cover of this story is fun and intriguing, inviting young readers in. Moving that ‘elephant’ is possible. Sometimes it may take longer than others, but that blue elephant can gradually change colour to pink or even yellow. The sweet but subtly clever illustrations by Vasanti Unka show the slow shift from blue to yellow in her backgrounds – shifting gradually from blues and greys to bright colours when the child is feeling better. A winning combination from NZ award winners.

What Book Next?

A sweet story, full of empathy and kindness with themes of family working together to solve a problem and taking small steps to recover. Melinda has written a few books that have an underlying message of wisdom. Pairing the story up with Vasanti Unka and her quirky, heartfelt and very original artwork is a stroke of genius. Parents, teachers and librarians will want to read aloud to 4-8-year-old children, including sensitive kids who take on the problems of the world on their shoulders...The book will give children an opportunity to talk about their feelings and what is causing their sadness/anxiety. They'll also see ways they can move their own metaphoric elephant. A very clever book that will help children deal with depression. Highly recommended!

Maria Gill, Kids Books NZ

[T]old with a light touch and sensitivity, whilst not avoiding the reality of having the blues, which can happen to anyone...Illustrations reflect the changes, blossoming gardens and sunshine in the finale, whilst acknowledging that the elephant is part of the family for good.

Crissi Blair, The Dominion Post Weekend

[T]his insightful and empathetic book is about having the blues, and was written to help little ones who might be dealing with sadness, to identify and manage those feelings in a constructive way.

Margi Riddiford, The Denizen

Awards & recognition

New Zealand Booklovers Awards

Finalist  •  2020  •  NZ Booklovers Best Children's Book

Storylines Notable Picture Book Award

Awarded  •  2021  •  A Storylines Notable Book

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