Mansi loves going to the museum, but she’s the only visitor without a friend and can’t shake off her loneliness. In a gallery she notices a solitary mammoth on a plinth. “Shall I draw you a friend?” she asks, and as her picture takes shape, Mansi imagines whirling snow. Before she knows what’s happening, she’s riding the mammoth straight back into the Ice Age!
During their whistle-stop time-travel tour, Mansi and the Friendly Mammoth meet a cave girl, admire cave paintings (and add to them) and observe amazing prehistoric wildlife. In the course of their adventures, they discover Mammoth’s long-lost herd, and on their return to the museum, Mansi’s excited chatter brings her a real-life, wheelchair-using friend. The book ends with a gentle call to action: Mansi and Benny join protests against further loss of wildlife, and the final spread presents information about the ‘mega-beasts’ that Mansi encountered in the Ice Age but that are now extinct.
Anna Terreros-Martin uses a blend of watercolours, inks, soft pastels and coloured pencils in an autumnal palette to conjure the soft textures of mammoth fur, cavelight and a snow-bound world, and her thoughtful debut sets out to raise awareness of endangered species and teach children that “sharing what you love is a great way of making new friends”. In tackling these subjects, she has created a warm-hearted picturebook that will please readers who like sincere stories with a mission and a moral.
The Friendly Mammoth is a satisfying book to share at any time of day and makes a good starting point for discussions about the topics raised, but the treatment of one of its key themes –being alone vs. being lonely – could have been a little more nuanced. It’s lovely to know that Mansi has found a friend, but ‘shyness’ doesn’t always need fixing, and solitary activities can be fun, too.