07 April 2009

Book of the Week (8): "Elephant" by Petr Horáček

Horáček is the creator of Silly Suzy Goose and the especially brilliant What Is Black and White? In this, his latest picture-book, a boy introduces us to his imaginary friend, ELEPHANT. Grandma and Grandad are too busy to play, so the boy plays with ELEPHANT instead. And it is ELEPHANT who made all that mess splashing in the bathroom, and trod in the flowerbeds, and spilled the juice and ate Grandma’s cakes… It was, honest... Fortunately Grandma and Grandad – though they may have some doubt about the existence of their grandson's big friend – are endlessly forgiving.

Mixing pencil-scribbles (for the elephant hide) and paint and collage, most of the illustrations are set simply against plain white backdrops, which works to great bold effect when this changes to a colour to enrich a particular moment of sadness or wild fantasy or magic. And there are magical moments aplenty. It’s a benign world where an elephant can play happily in the bath, where golden fish leap and even the tigers are smiling. You’d be smiling if you lived in a Petr Horáček book, too.

I saw Petr Horáček read this book to a big group this past weekend (a big group of adults, it’s worth mentioning), and when he got to the last page and read that and showed us the picture, there was a very audible group ‘aaaah….’. Indeed.

Recommended by Daniel Hahn

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