Once Upon a Story
October 1, 2014

1423183851 My Bibi Always Remembers by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

Published by: Disney Hyperion

Release date: September 2014

Ages: 3-5

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

Little Tembo, a baby elephant, is thirsty and her herd cannot find any water. But Bibi, the matriarch, “remembers the way to wet.” As Bibi leads them across the parched savannah, Tembo happily follows, every now and then getting distracted by her own memories of games she loves to play. With touching family moments interspersed between Tembo’s playful actions, this tribute to grandmothers will make a perfect read-aloud.


My thoughts:

When this book first arrived on my doorstep, I was getting ready to go out of town for the weekend with my eldest.  So after unwrapping it, I set it next to the reading chair upstairs, intending to get back to it the following week.

Upon my return on Sunday afternoon, it was my 2yo who followed me around, declaring we read the “e’phant book.” Knowing his attention span (about 3.5 seconds, on a good day), I gave him the book to flip through, but picked another one for bedtime.

Nice try, mom.

He accepted it that night, but the following day was chasing me again, “Read me e’phant book!” So that afternoon, I sat down and we started with the first page.

And read the whole thing cover to cover. And then he asked to read it again.

Perhaps it’s the lovable baby elephant as the main character, or the wide variety of African animals to identify, or the repetition of

When Bibi calls

everyone comes–

aunties, sisters, Mama–

one by one.


Searching for wet

which somehow has the slow, plodding feel of an elephant’s gait. Doesn’t matter. He was enthralled.

If you’ve read Stay Close to Mama or Just Like My Papa by this author-illustrator duo, you know that Buzzeo has a passion for the the animals of the African savanna. My Bibi Always Remembers, like its two predecessors, blends the wilds of this part of the world with tender family relationships, in this case a grandmother matriarch. Wohnoutka’s color palette is broad, taking us from the bright yellows and golds of morning, to the sharp blue skies of afternoon, and into the reds and purples of sunset. Through it all you have Little Tembo, a smiling, rambunctious, not-quite-obedient (elephant) toddler.

The sense of family comes through strongly. The elephants appear to smile, as they progress through their day–marching, resting, bathing–led by Bibi, larger, more wrinkled, more serious in expression than the others. Yes, it’s a story about elephant relationships, but it’s not a far leap to see one’s own human relationships in these giant animals.

A book to share between generations, a bedtime story, or, according to my own little reader (who continues to request this book) an anytime story, My Bibi Always Remembers is a beautiful addition to Buzzeo and Wohnoutka’s previous collaborations.


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