One of our favourite children’s series is the colourful world of Elmer The Elephant, created by author and illustrator, David McKee. Elmer is celebrated every year on Elmer Day and this year, it is Elmer’s positivity that is the highlight of celebrations taking place on Saturday 29 May (you can also read our Elmer Day blog from last year here).
As with celebrations last year, activities are taking place mostly online. There are lots of Elmer-related fun activities available in this year’s Elmer Pack (available here) and you’ll also find links to videos of Elmer stories being read by poet Joseph Coelho (Elmer and The Rainbow) and the creator himself, David McKee reading Elmer. You can colour in your very own Elmer, make some Elmer ears, create an Elmer card to send to a loved one or make a milk bottle Elmer.
Elmer isn’t, of course, the only elephant that we love so as well as tell you about some of our favourite Elmer stories, we’re also going to share with you today some our other favourite elephants from fiction and highlight where you can find information about real-life elephants if you want to know more about the animals themselves.
My favourite Elmer book is Elmer and the Wind, not just because the title makes me giggle like a 5 year old but there’s a particular image of Elmer flying above the trees after trying to prove that an elephant can’t be blown away by the wind. I love David McKee’s illustrations.
As for other books with elephants in them, The Elephant Thief by Jane Kerr is loosely based on the true story of Maharajah, an elephant who was relocated from Edinburgh to Manchester in Victorian times (the skeleton has been displayed at the Manchester Museum).
The elephant refused to board a train and had to undertake the journey by foot. In the story the elephant and the boy caring for it are pursued by unsavoury characters.
I love Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow. It is a beautifully illustrated picture book about a boy and an elephant playing hide and seek in the boy’s home.
The game is ridiculous as the elephant is often the only thing in the room, ‘hidden’ by a blanket or a lampshade, but the boy can’t find him!
A great book to share with young children as they love the absurdity of it and love to spot the elephant before the boy does.
Although not strictly about elephants, I loved Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen (made into a film starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson). The novel tells the story of Jacob Jankowski – recently orphaned and suddenly adrift.
One day, Jacob jumps onto a passing train and enters a world of freaks, grifters and misfits in the form of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a travelling circus struggling to survive the Great Depression.
The characters really do come to life throughout the book and the circus is portrayed so vividly that you can hear the applause and smell all the smells!
Other elephant books to try:
The Secret Lives of Elephants by Hannah Mumby – Elephants are as unique as people. They can be clever and curious or headstrong and impulsive, shy or sociable. Learn to know them as individuals as well as a species in this evocative account of years spent studying elephant behaviour in the wild.
Noah and The Little Elephant by Michael Foreman – Noa loves to watch the elephants play in the water near his small village in East Africa. One day tragedy strikes and the baby is left all alone, his mother killed by poachers. When Noa and his village adopt the lonely orphan, a beautiful friendship is born. Until one stormy night when Noa may need his friend to save him too.
The Girl Who Stole An Elephant by Nizrana Farook – Chaya, a no-nonsense, outspoken hero, leads her friends and a gorgeous elephant on a noisy, fraught, joyous adventure through the jungle where revolution is stirring and leeches lurk. Will stealing the queen’s jewels be the beginning or the end of everything for the intrepid gang?
An Elephant In My Kitchen by Francoise Malby-Anthony – Francoise never expected to find herself responsible for a herd of elephants with a troubled past. A chic Parisienne, her life changed forever when she fell in love with South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony. Together they founded a game reserve but after Lawrence’s death, Françoise faced the daunting responsibility of running Thula Thula without him. In this heart-warming and moving book, Françoise describes how she fought to protect the herd and to make her dream of building a wildlife rescue centre a reality.
The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan – On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries. The first is the case of a drowned boy, whose suspicious death no one seems to want solved. And the second is a baby elephant. As his search for clues takes him across the teeming city of Mumbai, from its grand high rises to its sprawling slums and deep into its murky underworld, Chopra begins to suspect that there may be a great deal more to both his last case and his new ward than he thought. And he soon learns that when the going gets tough, a determined elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs.
You’ll also find non-fiction books about elephants on our library shelves and in our eResources collection.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica lets you search by topic, includes illustrations and videos and caters information at three different levels – Junior, Student or Adult – so however old you are, you’ll find information of interest. For example, did you know that elephants, on meeting each other, may ‘trunk shake’ – like our handshakes, only with their trunks!
If you’re using the resource from home, start on our eInformation page, click on ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’ and log in with your library card. To find out more about using this resource, have a quick read of our previous blog post here.
Our eMagazine collection, bought to you via OverDrive and the Libby app, also features titles on animals and the natural world. National Geographic Kids explores the animal kingdom at a junior level (though we can’t guarantee elephants in every issue!) while National Geographic itself is also available. You can start exploring our eMagazine collection here and download the Libby app to start reading.
We hope you have a very happy Elmer Day 2021!