Author-in-Residence: Elisha Cooper

Lost your upupas? Missing all your kakapos? Elisha Cooper will help you hunt for them in his wonderful picture book, 8: An Animal Alphabet. This ark of an abecedary is a favorite at TCS. Each page depicts animals that start with the same letter—ibex, ibis, iguana, impala—with one standout species appearing eight times. The game is to spot all the hummingbirds among the hippos and hyenas. And if it’s tough to find eight goats on the crowded G page, the X page provides a restful break (just xeruses, with nowhere to hide).

This is a book that children love to pore over, as the I Spy game is not so easy. Hunting and counting the groups of eight will expand their visual discrimination skills and their concept of a “set,” as Elisha’s drawings include both river and ocean otters, hens and roosters, juveniles and adults. The sheer abundance of species is fast way to develop an impressive zoological vocabulary (for parents too!), and an appendix offers some memorable trivia, such as the compelling fact that weasels change the color of their coats with the season.

Elisha studied and sketched the dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History to make the animals look realistic rather than cute, but a charming expressiveness comes through; each creature is clearly an individual. His amazing talent for capturing the movement and posture of animals is truly on display in his newest book, Big Cat, Little Cat. This quiet, poignant story depicts the deepening friendship, over many years, between a big white cat and a little black kitten. The story becomes a gentle exploration of loss when one day the white cat doesn’t come home. This is a special book to read aloud—and talk about—when a child is grappling with the loss of a pet.

We were honored to have Elisha visit TCS and show our students how he sketches his ideas and puts together his books (he assured them that the process is messy). They were thrilled to watch as he made animals “come alive” on the page with just a few strokes of the pen. Don’t miss any of his magical illustrations!

Children learn so much about the world by lingering over the images and stories in picture books. TCS is grateful for authors like Elisha Cooper, who make spending time with books such a pleasure.