When a boy arrives at Pet Club with his tiny elephant, he is dismayed. All of the usual sorts of pets are allowed, but the sign on the door says “Strictly No Elephants.” Although he is sad when he leaves, he soon meets a new friend—a girl with a pet skunk who was also not welcome at Pet Club. They realize that they can create their own club, where friends and pets of all shapes and sizes are welcome.
Strictly No Elephants is told in first person, and it is clear how much the boy cares for his little elephant. When the elephant is nervous stepping over the sidewalk cracks, the boy always goes back and helps him over “Because that’s what friends do: lift each other over the cracks.” The refrain of “because that’s what friends do” is repeated throughout the story, teaching a lesson that goes beyond just how to care for an elephant.
Lisa Mantchev’s writing never talks down to children, and her sentences have a gentle flow that would make this great as a bedtime story. Taeun Yoo’s friendly, rounded illustrations bring the children and pets to life with texture and rich colors. They are also detailed and rewarding for observant readers. As the boy walks along the street with his elephant, other unusual pets—who will later become members of the new club—peer out the windows of the apartments in the background.