Elephant in my Kitchen! is a picture book about various animals moving into a young child’s house and the antics they get up to while refusing to leave.
The book itself stands out extremely well because of the large, bright cover which is neon orange. The first time I picked it up, I almost let out a gasp at how bright it was! While being bright is often a good thing when it comes to children’s books, I actually quite disliked the neon orange. It is not in keeping with the lovely, eco-friendly, nature-coloured inks inside the book and feels a bit at odds with the story. I don’t see why it needed such a gaudy, tacky cover. My feelings about the cover were soon irrelevant. It is clear right from the first page that this is a beautifully illustrated, colourful book which has had a lot of effort and thought put into it. Each page is fun to look at before the story has even started, with little frogs and animals in the corner of the copyright and legal text. Once the story started, I loved reading it out loud. The rhymes flow nicely with a great beat that would captivate and hold any child’s attention. Each animal is doing something funny that is sure to make little ones laugh. I even giggled a couple of times out loud, especially with;
“A tiger’s on the toilet
And I’m BURSTING for the loo!
He says it’s just a number one…
It’s definitely a TWO!”
perhaps being one of my favourite lines in a book ever.
Children love silly rhymes and animals, so it’s a great combination, and the illustrations really enhance it. The book feels big, the animals are large and bold along with an easy-to-read font making it perfect for smaller children. Each picture is full of character, the scribbly, child-like style lends itself well in this case in which the story is told from the point of view of a child.
However, there was one thing that bugged me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I just didn’t like the main character’s design. After reading a few times I realised that the problem was the eyes, or at least their face. The illustration style worked well with funny animal faces and they appeared to be full of emotion and character, but the little kid’s eyes were so big they were off-putting and his face didn’t convey much other than surprise because the eyes were so big. I ended up focusing more on the animals. It’s a shame, because the character is clearly androgynous to appeal to both boys and girls, in fact, their gender is never mentioned, which is very inclusive and welcomed.
The book was fun to read and I was enjoying it, then, suddenly it changed. The reason the animals were in the child’s house was revealed and the tone became serious. This was a complete surprise to me and not something I could predict in the text, once I realised the message was that the animals had no home because they were being destroyed, the book suddenly had much more meaning to me and I went from liking it to loving it.
The book took on a more educational feel that explained the importance of looking after the environment to keep our animals safe. It was very cleverly done, gaining the attention with fun and silliness to then explain the plan to help the animals go home by saving the environment. ‘The BIG plan’, explained in the last few pages of the book, are great tips for children to learn and something that will appeal to parents who care about the future of the planet. More children appear and the funny animal rhymes continue but this time they have purpose.
Overall, I felt like this was a special book that I would buy and keep as part of my permanent collection. It could be read to little children every night or read out loud by children and become part of their learning while still being fun. Having a copy in a school or playgroup would be a great hit I’m sure. The important message is backed up by some facts printed in the book. For example, in the front a polar bear holds a sign that the book is printed with vegetable based inks; a nice touch that fits in well with the theme, and the end pages are one big spread of things we can do to save our planet, each with a little illustration.
I would highly recommend this book to friends and families with kids.