Elmer the elephant is bright-colored patchwork all over. No wonder the other elephants laugh at him! If he were ordinary elephant color, the others might stop laughing. That would make Elmer feel better, wouldn’t it? The surprising conclusion of David McKee’s comical fable is a celebration of individuality and the power of laughter.
Elmer the elephant, a colorful character because of his patchwork hide and sense of humor, tries to blend in with the herd, but soon realizes that he’s happiest just being himself.
I love Elmer, it is such a fun story and a real classic. My youngest daughter, nearly 3 years old, has just discovered it and it’s her current favourite bedtime read. To begin with I don’t think she really got the story but she did love the pictures of the elephants. She liked finding the big ones, small ones, ones with different ears and so on. She loves looking at all the colours on Elmer and pointing out which ones she knows and finding the animals Elmer walks past on his journey and naming them too. Her favourite page is when all the elephants dress up in different patterns at the end and choosing her ‘best one’. The pictures are great, lots of colour, lots of elephants and in this case a real aid to helping understand the story.
After a few readings we began to talk more about the story. Elmer is a patchwork elephant, so different to all his friends. He is also the life and soul of the party but one day he tires of being different and disguises himself as an ordinary elephant. When he comes back is friends don’t recognise him and Elmer finds things a little dull. He makes all the other elephants jump and surprises them, then they realise he is actually Elmer. This is a lot of fun and it was great to see Sienna on the day she realised that the grey elephant was Elmer dressed up. As I said the pictures really helped with this. As Elmer stood in the rain and you can see half of him patchwork and half grey the penny finally dropped. “that’s Elmer”!
With a slightly older child there is so much to get out of this too, about being yourself, being different and it’s not what you look like but what you are like that counts. But this isn’t told in any kind of moralistic way.
Verdict: It is a lively funny story that you can read over and over and get loads out of. Brilliant!
Reviewed by Helen