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If I had an elephant for a best friend, there'd be no stopping us! We'd get matching jackets. We'd build a time machine together. We'd have OUT OF THIS WORLD adventures.
IF I had an elephant.
Beautiful large-format, hardback edition which will appeal to children with an offbeat sense of humour.
Miss Nearly Nine Months has just started to take an interest in pictures. She watches her two sisters as they "read" their books and insists on joining in. As a result, she is a pushover when it comes to "quiet time" - she crawls over to any adult who is waving a book in her direction, pulls herself up, and demands to be shown the pictures.
Once she was settled ready for the story to begin, the twins came over too. While their little sister was happy to look at the pictures, they wanted the story read to them as well. They went to the zoo recently and saw a real live elephant and this was still fresh in their memories, so this made the pictures meaningful for them. The front cover hooked them in straight away; they thought it was perfectly normal that an elephant and a child would sit side by side on a roof. It is only adults that have a problem with that particular idea.
Next we looked at the two inside covers, one with a shadow and one with a complete elephant, both against a background of peanuts. This started a discussion on what peanuts were because none of them has as yet eaten a peanut so I had to explain what kind of food they are. They decided they were probably some kind of cereal, and I could not think of any better explanation, so we left it at that.
The situations presented in the book are familiar to the twins. Hanging upside down is something they do instinctively, and they enjoy water fights with their cousins. The idea of having an elephant to join in the fun just made the idea more appealing. Tuakana liked the picture of the child wearing the huge jacket as she and her sister love dressing up in Daddy's clothes, and Teina liked the picture of the elephant riding the bus to school. (They are at playgroup, but I explained that it is pretty well the same thing).
The Grumblepuff made the twins giggle, but Miss Nearly Nine Months thought it was the best picture of all. She giggled too, and did not want to turn the page. In fact, we had to backtrack quite a bit because she seemed to take a liking to some of the pictures over others. Although the colours are muted rather than the bold shades often used in children's books, the lines are cleanly drawn and there is plenty of white space - important for a little one who is still learning to make sense of pictures.
This is a large book, printed on glossy paper, so I wonder how long it will last. Little ones are often unintentionally rough when handling books; because it is a text that is likely to be revisited, I would have preferred a slightly smaller format with tougher paper. However, it is a hardback edition, so the tough cover will be useful in prolonging its life.
All in all, the children gave it the thumbs up. The twins thought having a pet elephant was altogether a great idea and said they would like one too, but they might need to get a bigger house for it to live in. Their little sister (who of course can't talk yet) was content to giggle and try to grab the book out of my hand, so that was a positive reaction from her too. You don't always need words to express your opinion after all.
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Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)