First published in 1989 this popular book has spawned a wave of sequels and merchandise. If you are like me that might put you off – don’t let it. This book is well loved for a reason. It’s lovely.
Why is it so good?
I think a huge part of the appeal of this book is the gorgeous illustrations. Colourful throughout there is a lovely contrast between big bright Elmer and the normal ‘elephant coloured’ elephants. The final page is a riot of colour and designs and, in our house at least the ‘BOO!’ page always gets a great reaction. Elmer is a great character and his story can lead to lots of interesting and important discussions about being different.
And in school?
At its most basic level this book can be used to explore colours and designs. I love the activity to decorate a multicoloured elephant that can be sparked by the last page. Older classes can use the opportunity to use creative language to describe colours (in a book about the colour of elephants the word grey isn’t used even once) which could lead to guessing games etc.
At all levels this book is an obvious place to start in discussions about valuing differences in people and how groups (family / class / society) celebrate those differences. Older or more thoughtful classes could expand this to discuss the narrative that it’s alright to be different as long as you are funny.
The copy of the book that I have has no fewer than six follow up books which I have not read. If you have please feel free to let me know how they are.