But sometimes, it’s about more than the story. Sometimes it’s about what the story teaches you. This is incredibly important at a young age, as this is when ideals and values are formed. There are books for kids out there about living as a kid with ADHD, autism, being the victim of bullies, and many more. But with all these books about children being affected, what if sometimes, it was the other way around?
The Elephant does just that – it tells the heart-breaking and heart-mending story of Olive, her father, and her Grandad. Olive’s father carries around a sadness, and always has. This sadness is so big and so heavy that Olive imagines it as a huge grey elephant, plodding around behind him, weighing down everything he does. Nothing can break through it; not even Olive and her jokes. It’s just always there – plodding along.
Olive is tired of it. Her mum is gone, and she wants her dad back. She decides to get rid of the elephant and her father’s sadness, but it’s hard moving something so big. Olive gets her best friend Arthur to help her, and Grandad, but even Grandad seems to be carrying around a sadness – this one, a tortoise. Olive goes on adventure to banish the grey from her family’s lives, and this involves gramophones, paper planes, and bicycles, but it will be a lot harder than she thinks. And then there’s that secret she hasn’t told anyone about…
Peter Carnavas has woven a beautifully rich story. For children, it will help them understand the effects of depression and grief on adults, but it’ll also show them that everything can be okay, and that someone so small can affect something so big. For adults, you’ll need tissues for this one. The Elephant pulls no punches, and is incredibly emotionally honest – it’s not too direct that it’s unsuitable for children, but Carnavas has managed to write a story that’s as much a delight for adults as it is for children.
And then there’s the illustrations – dainty, elegant, and wonderfully emotive, the sketches of Olive and her family convey so much character, and you get a real sense of heaviness from the elephant that plods around after Olive’s dad. The writing is simple but honest, and you’ll be warmed by Olive’s determined nature to make her family happy again.
The Elephant is an essential read for ages seven and up, and we recommend this be a family read – first, to answer any questions, and secondly, because we guarantee no adult will want to miss out on this brilliantly written book.