Ernest the Elephant

Ernest the Elephant
Anthony Browne
Walker Books

From the much loved and highly praised Anthony Browne comes a stunningly beautiful modern day fable.
Having had thus far a safe happy life with his Mum and the rest of the herd, little elephant Ernest has become curious about what more life has to offer than mere walking, eating, drinking and sleeping.

One day Ernest and his mum are strolling happily along with the other elephants when something catches Ernest’s eye. To him it looks exciting but Mum tells him it’s not a place for baby elephants.
Somewhat put out at being called a ‘baby’ and eager to explore this alluring place, Ernest drops behind and into the jungle he goes. It’s a strange, colourful place and Ernest is fascinated by the dazzling light and dark, mysterious shadows.

Soon though, his excitement begins to wane and he contemplates rejoining the other elephants, but realises that he’s completely lost.
After some time he comes upon various other animals – a gorilla, a lion, a hippo, a gaping-mouthed crocodile –

but not a single one can be bothered to offer any assistance. Their apathy and condescension is evident in each of their faces, but then happily when Ernest is at the point of despair, one little creature stops and listens: it’s a tiny mouse.

Ernest explains his plight doubting that so small an animal could possibly help but so polite is Mouse that Ernest decides being lost with such a companion is preferable to being lost and alone.

Much to the little pachyderm’s surprise though, help is exactly what Mouse does and hurrah! Ernest and his Mum are eventually reunited and three happy animals are the outcome. After all, what better reward could there be for help so selflessly given?

While empathising with Ernest’s plight, children will love to lose themselves in Anthony Browne’s classic style surreal jungle, relishing the multitude of delicious cakes, lollipops, liquorice all sorts and other confectionary, as well as fruits, eggs both creme and fried, not forgetting the interesting variety of tree trunks one of which looks to me like a chocolate flake. There’s even a pair of socks and some underpants pegged out to dry. The illustrator clearly had huge fun with those scenes.

What a wealth of talking points this cracking book offers when adult and child(ren) share it, not to mention the visual literacy lessons aplenty.

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