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The Masterwork of a Painting Elephant

3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  101 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
Ever since he was an infant, Pigeon Jones has lived on the back of an artistically gifted white elephant named Birch. Birch is a loving father, but that doesn't stop Pigeon from wondering about the human parents who abandoned him. Birch has dreams, too—of being a well-known artist, and of finding the acrobat he fell in love with while they performed together in a circus ye ...more
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (first published January 1st 2011)
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The Lipstick Laws by Amy HolderUnearthly by Cynthia HandAcross the Universe by Beth RevisDivergent by Veronica RothAngelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
Class of 2k11
36th out of 49 books — 147 voters
Wabi Sabi by Mark ReibsteinLon Po Po by Ed YoungThe Masterwork of a Painting Elephant by Michelle CuevasSeven Blind Mice by Ed YoungRed Thread by Ed Young
Best of Ed Young
3rd out of 79 books — 7 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 231)
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May 09, 2011 Inge rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids, arcs
If Puff the Magic Dragon makes you cry, this will ruin you.
Apr 02, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: j, not-graphic
Like all good fables, it doesn’t seem to make much logical sense and seems to bear little in common with the real world, yet it captures wisdom and truth and connects readers to a deeper reality.


"Allow me to tell you a story," the turtle said. "You see, scientists have shown us how astronomy works: that the earth orbits around the sun and that the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. However, a group of people called the Hindus believes tha
Paul  Hankins
Beautiful. I am not sure what the community of reviewers is missing in this small little treasure about a boy, Pigeon, who grows up and lives upon the back of a white elephant named Birch. Wonderful extensions on the myth of origin stories and plenty to ponder in the presentation of Hindi beliefs regarding elephants and turtles. Lost of quotes to pull out of this one, but I want to post this and get my readers on this little book right away.

This one is Hero's Journey ready. Notable connections t
Jan 31, 2013 Betsy rated it liked it
One Sentence Review: Like a puff of wind upon the brain, you'll enjoy reading it when it comes up and then never be able to conjure up a single detail ever again.
Dec 07, 2011 Christi rated it it was ok
Not my cup of tea; but I can appreciate why other adults would like it. Afraid I don't see it appealing to many children.
Oct 23, 2011 Lynn rated it it was ok
Recommended to Lynn by: Goodreads First Reads
Shelves: first-reads
I was very excited to have received The Masterwork of a Painting Elephant by Michelle Cuevas through Goodreads First Reads Giveaway. Not only is it a debut novel for a brand new author, it is illustrated by Ed Young, one of my favorite children's book illustrators (Lon Po Po; Wabi Sabi; Tsunami; Seven Blind Mice and others).

I must begin by saying that I was expecting a book suitable for ages 6-12. So keeping this in mind, I began reading. Normally, I would have read the first chapter or two and
Melissa Wine
Nov 05, 2012 Melissa Wine rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Elephant Novel:

This is the story of a little boy named Pigeon who was born with very large ears, and abandoned. He meets a retired white circus elephant named Birch, and Pigeon spends his whole life riding Birch’s back. Birch is determined to one day be reunited with his long lost love, an acrobat he met back at the circus. This was a sweet-hearted tale with fable-like qualities. The main thing I loved about it was the lack of logical sense. It takes readers to another world and demands imaginat
Feb 27, 2012 Samantha rated it it was amazing
the book the masterwork of a painting elephant is a great story for everyone because it has comedy, romance, and it is touching.
it has comedy because ts a story about a young boy with giant ears that falls in love with a girl named Darling. The boys name is Pigeon Jones. That is his name because a elephant named Birch named him.
it had romance in it. One of the people that fell in love was Pigeon Jones with Darling. Darling wants to work with animals and Pigeon barley knows anything about them bu
Jan 31, 2012 Cornmaven rated it it was ok
Shelves: juvenile
I really did like this sweet sweet story/fable about an elephant and a boy who lives on his back. It brings to mind the delight of being optimistic in a dreary world, and the joy you can get when you 'color' your world with happiness. However, I knocked it down a star or two because I felt there were many lessons shared in such a way that a kid wouldn't get it at all. For example, near the end, Cuevas writes, "You use wood to build a boat, but it's in the space where there is nothing that the bo ...more
This book has very beautiful language--I wanted to underline tons--but I don't quite consider this a children's book in the sense that one would normally think. I do feel that it could be studied in a literature course. I'd rate it a 3 if it weren't classed as a children's book.

The story has a dream-like quality. It is about a little boy who was abandoned as a baby and meets a former circus elephant named Birch (named after birch trees because he is white like birch bark). The little boy, named
Sep 04, 2013 Gregg rated it it was ok
Shelves: children-s
This is a quirky little book about a boy who lives on top of an elephant who is an artist. Yeah, you kind of have to let go of logic in this one. The book had some interesting images and ideas, but it just didn't work overall. I felt like it was trying too hard. I kept thinking it wanted to be The Little Prince, but it's not. And I certainly can't imagine many children enjoying this "children's" book. Too esoteric for most kids, I think.

One interesting thing I learned about through this story wa
Jan 28, 2012 Tim rated it did not like it
If there were a way to give negative stars, I would. There is not a page of this novel on which you cannot see the hand of the author. She jerks the reader around through time and across the minds of several characters. You'll be in the mind of one character and then in the same paragraph get a description of things miles away.

The book is peppered with lame philosophical tidbits.

Just when you think there is a moment of good writing she ruins it by pulling out the purple pen. "Who knew a girl's h
Diane Ferbrache
When the boy was born, he had extremely large ears. After a few short months, his parents abandoned him on the steps of an orphanage. He wandered away and was discovered by Birch, an elephant who had just quit his job at a car wash to spend time painting. Birch adopts the boy who spends his life living on Birch’s back. This is their story and the story of their attempts to find the boy’s parents and Birch’s one true love, an acrobat in flame orange tights.
Descriptions on the back of the book l
Jul 18, 2012 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Shelves: juvenile-fiction
This is one of those mythical, metaphorical stories that lingers in my brain like a good fragrance. It is a mixture of real-life advice and fairytale fantasy. It reminds me of the Little Prince in that its sweet story passes on practical advice and mild social commentary.

Pigeon Jones is abandoned as a baby. He is found anraise4d by Birch, a white elephant who used to be in a circus but now paints pictures. Neither one is really connected to life until he meets the other. This is a story of lovin
Debby Baumgartner
Jan 21, 2016 Debby Baumgartner rated it it was ok
Shelves: elephants, orphans
Orphan boy is adopted by an elephant who has a talent for painting.
Sep 30, 2014 SarahG rated it it was amazing
Jan 15, 2012 Stacey rated it it was amazing
This may be one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. If you take the time to think about what grass really feels like on bare feet, what it feels like to be really loved, how lovely it can be to stop and really spend time studying the lovely things around you, then you can probably appreciate this. I cried tears of joy at how beautifully this ended. It reminded me of the best of the philosophical readings from my youth.
Jan 22, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it
This is sort of a strange little book, but I really enjoyed it. On the surface, it is a story about a boy and an elephant, but really it is a book about love. A boy's love of an elephant, an elephant's love of a boy, an elephant's love of an acrobat, even a pigeon's love for the ringmaster. I think fans of The Little Prince will find plenty to enjoy in this short and unique novel.
Mar 26, 2012 Tisha rated it did not like it
I kept trying to like this book, but I just couldn't get excited about it. It was difficult to keep picking up to read and it took me weeks to get through this small book. The point was illusive (I know, I know, it's about friendship, optimism, love, and being true to yourself), especially after I finally finished.
Mar 05, 2012 Allison rated it really liked it
This book is imaginative and philosophical. Living on the back of an elephant after being orphaned by his human parents, Pigeon attends school, travels, and adventures; all with his adoring elephant parent, Birch. Did I mention the circus? And the painting? And the meany Ringmaster?
Jul 24, 2012 Tracie rated it it was ok
Shelves: elem, fantasy
A young boy lives atop an elephant. The love between the boy, Pigeon, and Birch, the elephant is sweet. I do not know enough about Eastern religions to understand the significance of the symbolism throughout. This would be enjoyed by readers who like something different.
Oct 19, 2011 Angela marked it as to-read
Read a bit of this today and boy is it REALLY fun and silly read so far. I love the description in it--as clever as it is, which is VERY. I'm turning page after page already. I have got to get this one to finish it since the amazon peek ends after a few pages. :(
Jan 10, 2012 Sharon rated it really liked it
I picked this out for my 8-year-old and ended up reading it myself. I don't know if it would really appeal to your average kid, but I found the writing breathtakingly beautiful. It's not really the story I enjoyed so much but, oh! so many readbacks for this one!
Grammaticus Kidco
Aug 18, 2012 Grammaticus Kidco rated it it was ok
my kid wouldn't read this, so i did.
"too weird," she declared, but all she's been reading is harry potter
1-7 over and over again, unless she's watching the movies of same.
this book tries for the 'little prince' genre. somewhat trite.
Nov 15, 2011 Christiane rated it it was ok
I love elephants and I have a high tolerance for whimsy but this book did not work for me. An abandoned baby is raised by a former circus elephant. I'm sure it's meant to be a fable about families and love but I was just not captivated.
Dec 30, 2011 Sarah rated it it was ok
I think I don't like fables where you're supposed to learn something beuatiful about the world. I just didn't really see the point of this one. I guess it could be a good read-aloud, but it'd have to be a pretty spectacular reader.
Feb 28, 2012 Julie rated it it was amazing

any animal- loving,
soul will never
forget the
beauty of this
little story....

haven't been so
moved by a book
in many ages...

only a twit with
no magic will
think this
book not
Nov 09, 2011 stillme rated it it was ok
Shelves: jfiction
There were some really beautiful lines (both written and drawn), but the story didn't seem finished to me. Also, it didn't really feel like a children's book, but more like something written for adults.
Cindy Dobrez
Oct 05, 2011 Cindy Dobrez rated it really liked it
This is a special book that will strike a chord with the right reader. Full review posted at my blog:
Bonnie Stottlemyer
Mar 01, 2012 Bonnie Stottlemyer rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I'm on an elephant book binge...This one is an interesting allegory about security and growing up. I'm not sure what patron-group would like it. I think you'd have to know the individual patron.
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Michelle Cuevas graduated from Williams College and holds a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Virginia, where she received the Henry Hoyns Fellowship. She has worked in the youth education department at The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and is now a full-time writer.

Michelle is the author of The Masterwork of a Painting Elephant illustrated by Ed Young,
More about Michelle Cuevas...

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“The most glorious works of art, the ones that bring the purest joy – perhaps they need not be touched or known, but seen only with the heart.” 4 likes
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