Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Elephant

What starts out as a wonderful imaginary friend for a little boy quickly turns into a scapegoat for all sorts of trouble. Why take the blame when you have a perfectly good elephant to shift it onto? This reminds me of a book from my childhood - The Gorilla Did It, by Barbara Shook Hazen.

When this little boy's grandpa and grandma are too busy with their chores to play with him, he dreams up an elephant playmate who has plenty of time. The elephant is eager to play kickball in the yard, although it was not his intention to mess up grandpa's flowerbed with his big pachyderm feet. Nor did he mean to make a mess in the hallway or splash water all over the bathroom. It's just that elephants are so big and his trunk swings so widely ....

The boy's grandma and grandpa seem rather skeptical of his elephant explanation. It makes him sad that his grandparents don't believe his protests. Of course, the elephant comes right over to lift his spirits, as well as a literal lift, raising him high on his trunk. The pair play all day, fishing together in his room and hunting tigers in the jungle. The little boy wakes up along in his bed the next morning and his grandpa tells him "You were tired ... so your elephant carried you to bed!"

Reading this book is the perfect way to point out the advantages of using your imagination as well as the pratfalls of going too far. It's fun to pretend, but maybe not so smart to blame the error of your ways on your imaginary friend. Grandma and grandpa might be a little too clever for that one!

I really like the simple illustrations. The white backgrounds serve as a great canvas for the bold, bright colors of everything else. The boy may be a bit of a tall tale teller, but he's cute and likable. His elephant friend is equally endearing, looking a bit more "drawn" with crosshatches of gray filing in his ample body.

Overall, this is a pretty fun book. The young children we read to found it hilarious that a boy would insist an elephant was living in the house right under the noses of his grandparents! And they thought it quite underhanded to make up the fibs about the elephant causing all the trouble.

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