The elephant in the room

by | Feb 16, 2019 | Book Review, Picture Book

Book Details

The elephant in the room
James Thorp, illus. Angus Mackinnon, London: Templar, hb, 978 1 7837 0773 7, £11.99, 2017, 48pp.
Picture book, 5+ years

Oh dear someone has broken the china elephant in the room. Father Giant is not happy. Who is the culprit? And so starts the cumulative search for who to blame – an ever-growing list that circles round to – yes Father Giant, who preoccupied with his own affairs has neglected the children; a neat moral and one that will be wryly appreciated by any adults reading this picture book, and with enjoyment by the children. And, then there is the title, another little joke playing on the literal and the colloquial.

It is a traditional storyline and all the better for the familiar story arc. However, Thorp and MacKinnon have given it a contemporary feel placing their narrative firmly in a family situation. The gently rhyming text with its repetitions is attractive to read while the lively use of alliteration and onomatopoeia add to the fun. Wonderful combinations – “naughty newtiness”, “Yucky yakkiness” “rowdy cloudiness” – roll off the tongue bringing colour and vivacity to the text. This is not the whole story. There are the illustrations; dramatic, stylised, idiosyncratic – bold outlines and perspectives, simple almost abstract shapes, saturated colours all work to draw the eye and provide an intriguing accompaniment to the narrative.

This is not a picture book for those looking for the cosily conventional. This is for the adventurous, for those looking for an exciting visual experience combined with thoroughly enjoyable book to share.

Review by FMH