Young Mela decides to explore the banks of the Ping River near her home in Thailand. When her little brother wants to join her, she asks him, “What will you give me if I take you?” Because he has nothing to offer, she insensitively leaves him behind.
On the riverbank, Mela soon finds herself in trouble. In turn, she asks for the help of three animals who take what she has to offer and then refuse to help her: a crocodile takes her fish; a leopard, her sweater; and some monkeys, her backpack.
As night falls in the jungle, Mela becomes sad and afraid. An elephant sees her crying and asks if she is lost. He offers to take her home. When Mela says she has nothing to offer him, he expects nothing in return, explaining, “It would make my heart happy to help you.”
Mela is transformed by her encounter with the elephant. Acts of kindness—including taking her brother to explore the riverbank—become a part of her daily life.
Dow Phumiruk’s tenderhearted story is complemented by Ziyue Chen’s gentle illustrations. Christian parents and other adults who care for children will find in this book not only a lovely story based on another culture and place, but also an opportunity to talk to young children about Jesus’ love for all people and his command to treat others with kindness, without seeking reward or recognition. (Sleeping Bear Press)