Don’t Think About Purple Elephants
Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones
Meet young Sophie, she’s something of a worrier; not during the daytime however when she’s having fun at school,
nor at home afterwards playing with her sister and brother. Not even at weekends when she can read, bake cakes, help in the garden, ride her bike or simply cloud watch. NO! The worries manifest themselves at bedtime. Without other things to occupy her mind, Sophie would allow those worries to come creeping in.
Needless to say those bothersome worries interfered with her sleep, making her rather fractious in the mornings. Helpful suggestions from her family don’t work, they only add more worries …
not until that is her Mum says this: “Go to bed, close your eyes and DON’T think about purple elephants. … No purple elephants at all.”
We all know what happens when somebody tells you not to think about something: that very thought pops right into your head (unless you’re a meditator but even then sometimes in they crowd).
It’s no surprise then that into sceptical Sophie’s mind comes not one, but a veritable herd of elephants engaging in all manner of un-elephant-like activities.
And next morning, joy of joys, Sophie wakes up full of energy and you can guess what the theme of her artistic endeavours is at school that day.
Sophie is a wholly credible character. Indeed in my experience, many young, particularly creative, highly intelligent, emotionally sensitive children are very similar to the young protagonist. Seemingly, being of a creative bent can have its drawbacks too.
However, among the coping mechanisms adults can offer is children’s literature and in particular, picture books such as this delightful one. From the safe place of a story world youngsters can explore ideas and find solutions: the inherent humour of Susan Whelan’s narrative and Gwynneth Jones’ detailed, slightly whimsical illustrations offer one such. Jones portrays how those worries of Sophie’s take hold: as the worries come, the colours drain away, the scenes becoming almost black and white, with just the particular worry colourfully highlighted. Watch that mischievous moggie too.
All in all, a super book for home, early years settings and primary schools.