Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Elephant

My Elephant
By Petr Horáček
Candlewick Press, 32 pages
$15.99, ages 3 to 6

"Reality leaves a lot to the imagination," John Lennon once famously said.

Creative adults strive to live by that creed, but for young children, there's just no alternative world view.
Stuffed animals communicate. Closets and under-beds harbor monsters. Clouds look like fluffy kittens and ice cream cones.

Petr Horáček demonstrates that he understands that blurry line between the real and the imaginary in a child's mind in his sweet new book "My Elephant."

Grandpa and Grandma are too busy to play, so a little boy asks his elephant to play kickball in the yard.

"Who messed up the flower bed?" Grandpa asks.

"I'm sorry Grandpa. It was my elephant," the boy says.

Grandpa doesn't believe him, so boy and elephant go inside. Pictures and vases get knocked over in the hallway. There are puddles and splashing during a bath. Orange juice spills; cupcakes disappears.

"And was it you ELEPHANT who ATE the cupcakes?" asked Grandma.

The boy is sad when his grandmother doesn't believe him. But the reader can see in the picture she has a loving smile on her face.

The boy wants to be alone then. He goes to his room. Soon his elephant joins him and cheers him up with fishing and jungle adventures.

Then suddenly it's morning and he's waking up in bed. Grandpa's there suggesting they play ball.

"How did I get here?" the boy asks.

"You were tired," Grandpa says. "So your elephant carried you to bed."

Horáček's deceptively childlike pictures are charming.

It's never stated whether the boy is visiting the grandparents or lives with them. But every time there's a high-quality new book that can connect with a child in a nontraditional family, it's cause to cheer. And that's just one more reason to love this lovely book.

-Rebecca Young

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