Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Book Review: 'The Elephant in the Room' by James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon

This surprising and striking book appears to stand alone in today's picturebook market - there certainly aren't many books like it, illustrated in an psychedelic style reminiscent of The Beatle's Yellow Submarine film but with an even trippier colour pallete. This is a book which aesthetically stands out a mile and it's eye catching design will draw children in, keen to know what this strange-looking book is all about.

Featuring a rhyming text (and a rather nice, but perhaps not always child-friendly Art Deco typeface) the story gets as bizarre as the illustrations themselves. But this bizarre story will be all too familiar to adults who, with a wry smile, will read this aloud to children and recognise the narrative: something gets broken and the culprit makes up all sorts of excuses in order to escape punishment. This story concludes however with a stronger moral message for adults as Father Giant realises that maybe he had been too busy and the accident had happened because he hadn't been with the children. It is certainly food for thought for the grown up who might be reading this to younger children.

However, subtext aside, children hearing the story and taking it face-value will laugh uproariously at its silliness and witty wordplay - lots of lovely alliteration and rhymes (rowdy cloudiness, yucky yakkiness) and made up words (squinching) will delight young minds ready to soak up new and imaginative language. They will identify with the protagonists and the feeling of guilt that comes with accidental misdemeanours and might even begin to question the folly of not telling the truth in such situations.

The Elephant in the Room, a title which bears multiple significance, is like one of those brilliant children's films which is clearly intended to entertain adults just as much as the kids. As C.S. Lewis said “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.”. James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon have produced a good children's story. Highly recommended.

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