Day 150 – Have You Seen Elephant?

Have you seen “Have You Seen Elephant?” by David Barrow? If you have, you will likely have noticed the very large elephant hiding behind a tiny tree while a little boy looks out and you shrugging his shoulders. It looks rather silly, right? Well, it is – delightfully so!elephant

You see, the little boy and the elephant are engaged in a game of hide and seek. “Would you like to play hide and seek?” the elephant asks. “OK.” says the little boy, “You hide.” “I must warn you, though,” the elephant cautions, “I’m VERY good.” Yeah, right. Right? But it turns out that he is very, very good…or is he? Little readers, and the boy’s dog, may be able to spot the elephant on every page (behind the drapes in the kitchen, under the comforter on the bed, holding up the TV in the living room, sitting with a lampshade on his head) but neither the boy, nor his parents, seem to see the elephant. At long last, the elephant taps the little boy on the shoulder: “There you are!” the little boy cries…before being challenged to a game of tag by a tortoise who has wandered into the picture. “I must warn you, though,” he cautions, “I’m VERY good!”

This story is tons of fun for read aloud and the artwork is playful and expressive, which serves to amplify the smiles. The combination is quite engaging for listener and reader alike – “Can YOU spot the elephant?”, “Do you think that the elephant is good at hiding…or is the boy just pretending not to see?”, “Do you think his parents really can’t see the elephant?” In fact, according to this interview with Mr. Barrow, that is exactly the kind of ambiguity that the author was going for. As an aside: in the linked interview, I also liked the way that Mr. Barrow describes the “audition” he held to identify the right little boy for the lead. I think he chose well; every time I look at the smile on the little boy’s face it makes me grin.

Oh – and one more thing: after reading over multiple reviews – and the aforementioned interview – I could find no reference to any deeper meaning in the book, although when we first picked it up I assumed that “Elephant” must be an allegory. You know: no one will talk about the “elephant in the room” even though everyone can see it? We pored over the illustrations, especially the family portraits that adorn the front and back pages of the book, and we thought we identified something. But, were we trying to read too much into it? Why were those family portraits there? I’ll leave it up to each individual reader…either way, allegory or no, this was a really fun – and funny – book.

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