I spent many enjoyable hours reading picture books by English authors and author/illustrators with my young family when we lived outside London many years ago. When I have the good fortune to find an English picture book on this side of the Pond, I’m eager to share it. Sometimes it’s the setting, sometimes the English humour, and sometimes it’s a word or scene that transports me back.
Today’s Perfect Picture Book reminded me of the humour evident in such British classics as Monty Python or Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean series – but targeted to the playground set. And for those in the mood for some hysterical English-American word comparisons, check out a wonderfully witty post at Picture Book Den.
Title: Have you seen Elephant?
Written & Illustrated By: David Barrow
Publisher/date: Gecko Press, NZ/2015
Suitable for Ages: 3-5
Themes/Topics: hide and seek, elephants, playtime, family, all-dialogue, humorous
Opening: “Would you like to play hide and seek?” “OK. You hide.” “I must warn you though. I’m VERY good.”
Brief Synopsis: An elephant who is very good at hiding challenges his human friend to find him in a game of hide and seek.
Links to Resources:
- Play hide and seek with a friend or family member
- Hide something and challenge a friend, family member or even a pet to find it
- Elephant is good at hiding. Is there something you are very good at that would surprise others? Show these friends or family members what you are good at & ask them to show you what they can do well.
Why I Like this Book:
Have you seen Elephant? is an engagingly simple picture book with a humorous plot. Young hide-and-seek fans will delight in finding the elephant that the unnamed boy and his parents don’t see (or perhaps choose not to see – a possibility raised by Barrow in a 2015 interview on the Playing by the Book blog). Their parents will enjoy the message that someone can be good at something even if he/she doesn’t fit a stereotype of someone who would succeed at that task.
A Note about Craft:
Have you seen Elephant? is a story with a very low word count, told all in dialogue, with 13 of its 28 pages comprised solely of engaging water colour illustrations. While the story could, perhaps, have been told wordlessly, the sparse dialogue adds tension and humor as the unnamed boy asks first his father, then his mother if they’ve seen Elephant. The observant dog is the perfect foil to the clueless family. And the twist at the end leaves this reader hoping that a sequel will be forthcoming.
This is a perfect example of a mentor text for all-dialogue, low word count, humorous picture books.
David Barrow was the winner of the Sebastian Walker Prize from Cambridge School of Art for most promising children’s illustrator in 2015. This is his debut picture book, and it’s short-listed for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2016 and long-listed for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2016.