The Trouble With Elephants, by Chris Riddell

The Trouble With Elephants, by Chris Riddell
(1988, Lippincott)

A little girl shares the trouble with elephants in this picture book for an elephant lover like my GirlChild (who turns five today)!

The book opens with a picture of a somewhat disgruntled little girl with her arms wrapped around her stuffed elephant and the words, “The trouble with elephants is…” From that page on, the little girl remains disgruntled, but the elephant appears as a full-size elephant that goes with her everywhere! The troubles with elephants are all things that would be true if the elephant in question was real, like spilling the bathwater, taking all the sheets and snoring, and being bad at hide-and-seek. Some of the troubles are written out in the text, but many of them are just shown or hinted at in the illustrations (such as blocking the sun when you’re lying out on the beach together and being a bad choice for the other end of the see-saw). The very last page says that the real trouble is “you can’t help but love them” and shows the little girl giving her stuffed elephant a kiss on the cheek.

Despite the fact that this book was published 25 years ago, the illustrations are charming and timeless. A little girl in red patent leather shoes, baggy tights, and a bobbed haircut would not look out of place now, and the only things that might have hinted to me that this was an older book were the knitted tea cozy with a pom-pom and the toast rack on their breakfast table. (Then again, this book was published in the UK by an author/illustrator who was born in South Africa and raised in England, so the tea cozy and toast rack might just be an international thing… Do people still use toast racks?!) The illustrations show the elephant (or elephants in some pictures) doing silly things like sliding down the banister or trying to ride a bike (and failing when the bike collapses). The faces of both the little girl and the elephant are particularly expressive despite their relatively simple features, so it’s easy to interpret their emotions (which is a good thing for young readers who need the hint).

GirlChild’s Reactions: This being a book about elephants, GirlChild LOVES it. That, and she likes the way some of the humor is told through the pictures (as she can’t yet read but is good at sensing the ridiculous). She says her favorite part is the “you can’t help but love them” part. Since some of the pictures are pretty busy, she has found new things to examine each time she’s had us read this one!

Additional titles:

(YA fantasy series)

   (Not for kids, but it looks hilarious!)

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