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From author Caron Levis and New York Times bestselling illustrator Charles Santoso—the award-winning team behind Feathers Together; Ida, Always; and This Way, Charlie—comes Mighty Muddy Us, a moving, full-color picture book story of sibling love, inspired by a real-life elephant family.
The moment he is born, Ely delights in the welcoming trumpets of his adoring big sister, Enid. She is so excited to play—but Ely’s legs are injured and it’s hard for him to move. To help keep Ely safe, Enid sticks close to her determined brother as they grow together through the seasons, trunk-twirling, mud-wallowing, and making silly sounds!

But as Ely grows more confident, he’s ready for more adventures, and he feels squished by Enid’s worries and rules. Enid is glad that he can run and play, but she’s nervous he could get hurt—or that he won’t need his big sister anymore. When a drought threatens the whole family, Ely shows what he is capable of, and both he and Enid discover that whether they are helping or playing, dusty or muddy, siblings are mighty special.
Inspired by real life elephants and the mighty researchers and team at
Amboseli Trust for Elephants!

I came across the story of Ely, Enid, and Echo right away when  I started looking at the work of Dr. Cynthia Moss. Dr. Moss and Martyn Colbeck along with the team at A.T.E. observed and documented the "EB" family for many years. I encourage you to check out their books and watch the documentaries on Echo and her family. 

Story Spark:  One striking real life moment became the seed of the story. After many hours of Echo and Enid working to help the perseverant Ely stand and live, Enid finally began heading off to find water, but when Ely cried out, she turned and ran back, staying until he finally stood! 


I then used my imagination to turn the real-life story into a blend of facts and fiction. One fact I changed in the book, is that in real life, Ely and Enid had other siblings, named Erin and Eliot. I also named "Aunt Em" myself in the book. This is for my sister, who I call Em, and also my editor Emma and Agent Emily M.! Some of the real-life moments Charles and I used in the book, were how the elephants really do their own scuba diving, dust each other, and Ely really had a run in with a Hippo!

The real Ely, Enid, and Echo. 
Photo © by Martyn Colbeck
from Little Big Ears by
 Dr. Cynthia Moss 

Originally produced for the BBC you can find the documentary films and clips in several places online.  

Echo of the Elephants.

 Echo of the Elephants: The Next Generation, Echo, Ely and Friends: Africa’s Forgotten Elephants,

Echo of the Elephants: The Final Chapter?

Note to Grown-Ups: Watch the films with your kids as they cover some challenging moments such as hunger, fights, and death. They are wonderful films to see together, and pre-watch as needed! 


Mighty Muddy Us is a work of fiction inspired by a real story and informed by the work of mighty researchers. 

Dr. Cynthia Moss, Dr. Joyce Poole, Katy Payne and more. 

I learned so much and gained a greater appreciation of these magnificent beings we share the earth with. 

Discover the lives of elephants with your families and students. 

Discover more about elephants!

Some of the  mighty books I read: 
For kids (non-fiction):
  • Little Big Ears: The Story of Ely by Cynthia Moss and Martyn Colbeck. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1997

  • Echo Of The Elephants: The Story of An Elephant Family by Cynthia Moss and Martin Colbeck. BBC Books, 1992

  • Elephant Woman: Cynthia Moss Explored the World of Elephants. By Laurence Pringle. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1997.

  • Elephants Calling by Katy Payne. Crow Publishers, Inc.

  • How To Be An Elephant: Growing up in the African Wild by Katherine Roy. David Macaulay Studios/Roaring Brook Press, 2017

Books for older readers (non-fiction):

  • Elephant Memories by Cynthia Moss. University of Chicago Press 2000

  • Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants by Katy Payne. Penguin 1999​

  • Coming Of Age With Elephants: A Memoir by Joyce Poole, Hyperion, 1996.

for more from the bibliography click here. 

Might Siblings, Families, Friends— sticking together through mud and dust!

As I wrote Mighty Muddy Us, I thought of the siblings in my own family as well as siblings and special friends in many families I've known throughout my life.


I am an older sister! My younger sister is now a mighty teacher and mama of three wonderful elephants—I mean human kids! (Though when they run around the house it sounds like elephants!)  Our story was different than Enid and Ely, but we too had both strengths and struggles as siblings. There were times I stood up for her that I felt mighty proud of, and other times I meddled too much. There were times I could've played with her more and other times we played dress-up, splashed in the water, and jumped off sand dunes.  I learned a lot from her and still do. 

As a friend and a social worker I've gotten to be with kids who were navigating a sibling's pre-mature or complicated birth, developmental delays, or grieving the loss of a potential sibling who died before they could meet them. What struck me was how children can form relationships with a potential sibling, cousin, or friend during pregnancy. I've also gotten to be amidst and work with kids who were meeting developmental milestones at different times or had physical differences. I thought about the different ways kids and families find ways to see each other for who they are and grow together in their own mighty ways. 


Being a sibling or a special friend has different challenges and joys. I hope reading Mighty Muddy Us, might help you talk about your mighty relationships, together!  Too-Weee!

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