The Trouble With Elephants by Chris Riddell (Walker, 1988) A whimsical picture book featuring rotund, fun-loving anthropomorphised elephants—imaginative manifestations of the narrator’s stitched elephant doll—engaging in everyday suburban life. Though guilty of perpetuating some commonly held misconceptions, Riddell’s text and illustrations nevertheless capture the joyousness of elephants at play.
A Lemon-Yellow Elephant called Trunk by Barbara Softly; ill. Tony Veale (Chatto, Boyd & Oliver, 1971) What seems at first a tale of whimsy turns instead into a rather clumsily executed parable of individual worth and acceptance. Thankfully Tony Veale draws a creditable elephant (and round-snouted giraffes). The floating artwork and limited use of colours leave an impression.
Jumbo: The Unauthorised Biography of a Victorian Sensation by John Sutherland (Aurum, 2014) An indictment of human nature, jocose in delivery but starkly illustrated by way of a potted history of man’s gross mistreatment of elephants over the centuries. Special attention is paid to Jumbo, who, behind his fame, was just another sorely abused pachyderm.
Elephant in the Kitchen by Winsome Smith (Ashton Scholastic, 1980) No one character stands out as owning this story (where the eponymous pachyderm doesn’t participate all that much), but the tale of Cato the shrinking elephant and Sam the absentminded artist remains a fun — and not at all frightening — middle grade adventure.