A clever approach to promote the importance of voting among America’s youth.
During the months leading up to the 2008 election, the author planned and executed an illusion where she seemingly (and symbolically) produced an elephant and a donkey out of thin air. Dillies recounts the entire creative process from conception to fruition without divulging the mechanics of the actual illusion itself. Although a successful result is a foregone conclusion, she ably maintains suspense as any number of potential complications, ranging from animal behavior to event permits and weather conditions, threaten to unravel the best-laid plans. Young readers may enjoy learning about the endless details involved in mounting this kind of production: sound, music, lighting, wardrobe, set design, construction, fundraising, sponsorships, publicity, volunteers, etc. They will almost certainly be delighted to discover each animal’s favorite food reward during training sessions or what happens when Abner (the donkey) unexpectedly sneezes in close proximity to Emily (the elephant). Each chapter begins with a relevant quote about democracy, and the book contains many images (photographs, cartoons, posters) that support the text nicely. Furthermore, Dillies includes autobiographical elements—a painfully shy girl improbably becomes a famous entertainer—and endeavors to honor the memory of her deceased father and his legacy of civic duty. Occasionally, the author indulges in cheesy exclamations, like “I didn’t want to be a disillusioned illusionist!” or “It was a ‘zoo’ within a Zoo!” Nevertheless, she generally writes in an accessible style that proves effective when presenting historical material such as the struggle for women’s suffrage, the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, or the evolution of the animal mascots associated with today’s two major political parties.
As Dillies encourages young readers to participate actively in our democracy, she provides a refreshing antidote to apathy and doubts about the political process that often dominate the headlines.