Picture book heroes come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and species. Some are headstrong and rush ahead despite warnings. Some are frightened, but face their fears. Some are cats, or dogs, or purple aliens.
My family found a shy, yet strong hero in a young elephant. In Ella Sets the Stage by Carmela and Steven D'Amico, Ella manages to find a role for herself (and some talents and strengths) when her school hosts a talent show.
When Ella's teacher announces that the school will have a talent show, many of Ella's friends are excited and start planning their acts right away. One will do ballet, another plans a magic act. But, Ella worries about the talent show.
"For someone as shy as Ella, getting up in front of an audience was as far from 'fun and festive' as anything she could imagine."
Still, Ella searches for her talent. She very briefly tries out drumming, juggling, and singing. Then she sees a poster asking for volunteers for the talent show committee. She finds that the committee consists of one -- her friend Frankie, who really would like to be practicing his puppet act for the talent show. So Ella gets to work. She paints signs, makes awards, finds out which students are doing acts, and makes a program for the show.
Ella is very supportive when her friends show her their acts. On the night of the show, Ella brings homemade snacks to the backstage area to share with her friends. She helps out with a few minor problems and watches the acts from behind the curtain. When a loud noise disrupts a magic act and sends a monkey into the rafters, Ella has the solution to get the monkey to come down.
After the awards are presented, Ella's friends ask to thank her on stage for all of her work and support.
"But Ella was so shy. How could she get on stage in front of an audience who was applauding her? She didn't think she could. Then again, she also used to think she had no talent."
The story ends with Ella on stage - surrounded by her friends - holding a bouquet of flowers in front of a cheering audience.
My family enjoyed other books about Ella as well. My daughter's other favorite was Ella Takes the Cake, a fun story that involves a very large cake, a bicycle, a few hills, and a few detours - starring Ella the shy and resourceful elephant who loves to help.