Elephant Quest (nonfiction, travelogue) Interest level: grades 1–6
written and illustrated by Betsy Lewin and Ted Lewin
Caldecott Honor winners Ted and Betsy Lewin combine their distinctive artistic styles with captivating text to relate their adventure to see majestic African elephants in Botswana. Along the way they encounter a full range of African wildlife: hippos, lions, leopards, wildebeests, giraffes, wild dogs, baboons, and more. Elephant Quest is one of six illustrated travelogues in the Lewin’s Adventures Around the World series.
- Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students, National Science Teachers Association/Children’s Book Council
- John Burroughs Award for Nature Books for Young Readers, American Museum of Natural History
Themes: Biodiversity, Animal Adaptations, Habitats & Environments, Human Activity & Impact, Sustainability, Geography
- Describe the physical and behavioral adaptations of the elephants. What do they need to have or be able to do to survive in their environment?
- How do Ted and Betsy Lewin and other humans that appear in the book demonstrate respect toward the animals they observe?
- Why do you think Ted and Betsy Lewin choose to focus on the African elephants? What makes this species unique or interesting compared to the other animals in the habitat and country?
- What is a reserve? Why do the elephants live in a reserve? What reasons might people have for creating a reserve? Do you think people have a responsibility to protect animals or the environment? Why or why not?
- Ted and Betsy Lewin are tourists at the reserve and in Botswana. List the consequences (positive and negative) of the Lewins’ trip on the animals, habitat, people of Botswana, and young readers around the world. Do you believe wildlife tourism is beneficial, harmful, or something else to the animals and habitat? Why?
- Have students research the geography of Botswana. What are the physical features, climate, and seasons? Which animals and plants are found there? What culture(s) are found there? What makes the region unique from other parts of the world? How might the region’s geography make it attractive to elephants and ideal for the Moremi Reserve?
- Elephant Quest was originally published in 2000. Encourage students to research the status of African elephants today. If the Lewins were to write an update to their travelogue, what might they include about the species and the challenges they face? Explore the conditions of African elephants with the World Wildlife Fund and National Geographic Kids.
- If the Lewins were to come to your community, what animal species should they search for and write a travelogue about? Ask students to write a letter to persuade the Lewins to visit this place and study an animal species of their choosing. Describe the species where you live. What does it look like? What does it eat? What are its predators? What challenges does it face?
- Encourage students to design and create a travel poster advertising the Moremi Reserve. Persuade tourists to visit this region based on facts about its climate, animals, and geography found in the book. Think about the time of year that would be best to visit this region. Students may wish to study examples of travel advertisements in newspapers, magazines, or online travel sites for inspiration.
- Ted and Betsy Lewin choose to use watercolor paint to convey their experiences. How do watercolors help them tell the story and capture their observations? How do watercolor illustrations compare to photographs (check out the photo galleries of Moremi from Expert Africa and Botswana Tourism for examples)? Contrast Ted Lewin’s realistic images to Betsy Lewin’s field sketches. How do the Lewins use watercolors differently from each other? If possible, have students practice painting a scene with watercolor paints. Have students reflect on the material, time involved, and process of painting with watercolors. Have students hypothesize whether the Lewins painted during the trip or after they returned to their studios. Then show them a video interview with the Lewins in their studios.
- Home-School Connections: Encourage students and their families to participate in Wildlife Watch, the National Wildlife Federation’s national nature-watching program created for people of all ages. Students and families share the details of the wildlife they see in their communities to help National Wildlife Federation track the health and behavior of species.
Copyright © 2015 Jill Eisenberg. All Rights Reserved.