Black Dog
Annie and the Wild Animals


by Mike Wu

What's an elephant to do when her zoo is in trouble? Each of her friends has a special talent that they use to help their beloved zoo from closing down. Ellie has lots of enthusiasm but struggles to discover her helpful gift, until one day she discovers a paintbrush...

Ellie is an endearing picture book by Mike Wu, a Pixar animator who has worked on The Incredibles and  Toy Story 3, among others, and who definitely knows the way to capture the imagination of young readers. Ellie shows us that we all have special gifts, and that we can all make a difference, no matter what those gifts are. 

In this Issue


Fill in the Frame Painting Activity


Inspired by Ellie's art gallery at the zoo and the friends who come have their portraits painted by the talented elephant, this week's art activity is artwork and a decorative frame all in one. 

Instead of the usual order of creating art and then framing it, reverse the process by framing a "canvas" in cardboard, and then painting within the frame. Decorating the frames and filling them with art its a two step activity that challenges the brain to work with multiple art materials. In addition, this reversed order gives young readers a new way to think about the space they use to create their art and inspires young minds to always explore the new or unexpected, an important skill for all lifelong learners!







Fill in the Frame Painting Activity


  • Cardboard - can be corrugated, from a cereal box, any type of lightweight cardboard
  • Paper suitable for painting
  • Paint
  • Brushes
  • Markers
  • Tape or glue
  • Scissors and/or X-acto knife
  1. Parent Step: Cut any size rectangle from your cardboard, and a piece of paper to the same size. Set paper aside.
  2. Parent Step: Draw a 1- to 2-inch border from the outside edge of the cardboard rectangle. Using scissors or an x-acto knife, cut out the inner rectangle to create the frame. 
  3. Have your young reader decorate the frame as desired; this can be with markers, crayons, cut paper, fun foam, or even objects glued to the frame. 
  4. Glue or tape the paper to the back of the frame. Set out paints and invite young readers to create a masterpiece within the frame!

  You Might Also Enjoy: Self Portrait Painting, Elephant NosePatchwork Elmer


Pinterest Picks: Displaying Young Reader Art




Creating Art with Food

Here's a collection of ideas from our archives for creating edible masterpieces and inspiring yet another way of making art! 

A Veggie Painting + Rainbow Slaw


Yogurt Bark Canvas with Homemade Chocolate Syrup Paint


Painted Toast Masterpiece


Ketchup Painting


Off the Shelf Shop: Tiny Teru

Ellie's author/illustrator Mike Wu is half of the team behind Tiny Teru, a collection of clothes and gifts for babies and toddlers. Here's a shirt featuring none other than Ellie, plus a few more picks that we were especially drawn to. Enjoy! 


Unforgettable Elinor Tee



Woof the Dog Tee



Organic Yuki Darling Tee


More from Off the Shelf

One Year Ago: The Little Engine That Could

Two Years Ago: Mouse Paint

Three Years Ago: A Ball for Daisy

Four Years Ago: The Snowy Day

More Elephants: Elmer by David McKee + Elephant Ear Cookies

 This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Off the Shelf!


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Hi ,

Your site is very helpful for a single dad, so thank you. I know it's a new book, but I just found a very nice book called "Cooking With Mr. C. by John Contratti. It has a wonderful message for kids. I found it on Amazon. My boys love it. I thought I'd share the title with you. I check out your site weekly, so thanks.


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