Sunday 16 February 2020

The Elephant

Finished February 15
The Elephant by Peter Carnavas

This lovely little book is a great addition to any library with a children's section. It tells the story of a young girl, Olive, who lives with her dad and her granddad. Her mom died when she was very young, and she really only knows her through pictures. Olive can see that her dad isn't happy. He has a routine when he gets home, but he's really just going through the motions. When Olive looks at him, she sees a large grey elephant beside him, one whose shadow darkens everything around it. She knows that until the elephant goes away, he won't get better.
Olive's been thinking about this for a while, and she finally shares it with her friend Arthur who reads a lot and who knows how to listen. Arthur offers her some good advice, and begins his own reading about elephants to see if he can learn things to help her.
At school they are celebrating the school's 100th anniversary at the end of term, and all the children are asked to bring something old to show the others and share the story of. Olive wants to bring her bicycle, but her father has taken it to mend and still hasn't fixed it. Her granddad offers some options to her: a typewriter, and a record player, but while Olive enjoys them, they don't hold the same meaning for her.
Olive loves getting met after school by granddad, especially on the days he is wearing his purple backpack. On those days, she knows they will have some sort of adventure. But there are times when her granddad is sad too, and has his own grey creature by his side.
As Olive and Arthur work together to find a way to make the elephant go away, Olive also wants to help her granddad and thank him for providing the colour in her own life.
This is a great book to help kids understand when someone in their lives is struggling with depression. The use of the various animals brings the idea of depression to life in a physical way, and the way people work together to make things better for everyone shows that there is often a way forward past the depression.
The illustrations for this book are simple, yet show so much. From the jacaranda tree that Olive loves to sit in to think, to Olive, Arthur, her teacher, her dad, and her granddad, to the grey animals (especially the elephant with its tiny black top hat) and the various objects that play a role, the line drawings bring the story to life for young readers.
I loved it.

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