Kofi the elephant teaches kids how to handle bullying and adversity

Rare indeed is the family that has never had to deal with the problem of childhood bullying and teasing.

This is an insightful book. It introduces us to a character who, with the help of supportive parents, learns to cope with his disability through his own good judgment and unsuspected bravery.

Kofi endures his childhood hardships and goes on to lead a successful life. On the last page we see him much, much older, with his granddaughter lovingly nestled on his lap. Ultimately, it is the love, care, and encouragement of parents that will help a child develop ways to cope and feelings of self-worth.

As Dr. Sheer says: “The book can be useful to people without disabilities, too. All of us feel somewhat not whole, at least some of the time.”


Michelle Kim Leff, MD, MBA

Child/Adolescent psychiatrist
Part-time faculty, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

When my daughters were young, my husband and I ended the day with the usual bedtime ritual, reading them books before tucking them into bed. We read many books, and many books numerous times, so much that often a child not yet able to read would turn each page at just the right time, like a page-turner for a pianist.

I predict that this will become one of those beloved books. Why? Kofi's story is compelling. As an elephant born "different," he endures other elephants' curiosity and teasing, which makes him feel inadequate. At times he is so desperate he takes life-threatening measures to "fix" himself. Most cruelly, he is subjected to bullying.

There are protective factors in Kofi's life. He as parents and family who care deeply about him, who work with him to overcome the difficulties caused by his difference and seek medical attention for him. The surgical treatment helps, but the result is not perfect. He still has a flaw on his trunk. We can sense, however, that his parents' care has helped him develop a resilient coping style, perhaps their greatest gift.

As Kofi weighs the difficult decision to attempt to save on of his fiercest bullies, we see the classic conflict: Should I try to save this bully? Am I strong enough to succeed? We can identify with Kofi's internal struggles.

We adults reading to young children will notice the full circle of life: Although Kofi has endured childhood hardships, he has successfully created his own family. We see him at the beginning and at the end of this book with his granddaughter nestled in his lap. Although the children we read to may not notice or understand the full circle, special captivating books such as this one seep into the sub-conscious. The stories we hear as children are ones we incorporate into our beings.

This book plants the concept that while bullying may seem all-consuming during childhood, one can overcome the hardship. Anything is possible if you have a strong sense of self and support from others.

I wish this book had been written 20 years ago. When I reviewed it recently, my lap felt the absence of two wet-haired, sweet-smelling, pajama-clad girls, eager for their bedtime stories. I wish I could have shared this book with them. I know they would have loved it.

Parents support their kids with adversity