Elephant Island by Leo Timmers

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Translated from the Dutch by James Brown, this English language text was published in 2022 by Gecko Press, who promise ‘curiously good books’, and this is no exception. A wonderful story of problem solving and innovation, the lengths the elephant goes to to try and build his island will intrigue and delight all readers. They will have suggestions, and urge Arnold on in his endeavours, while astute adults and teachers will challenge their audience to try something similar themselves. With hints of Heath Robinson and his zany constructors, the illustrations will cause lots of laughter as the readers follow what is happening.

Arnold is a seafaring elephant but one day his boat founders and he is washed up on a very tiny island.  He spies a small boat in the distance and as it comes closer, sees it is a houseboat, jut big enough for the little mouse sitting in it. But Arnold uses the wood and sails from the boat to build a small structure on the island. An old sea dog sails by and Arnold uses this bigger boat and sails to further enlarge the island’s structure. A passing steam boat has a serious malfunction and after all of its crew is safely helped onto the island, Arnold makes use of every piece of the boat to enlarge the island even more. With his new friends, Arnold and the others danced and sang songs all night. News of their escapade reaches a wide audience and many more people come to look and stay, building even more structures. But the sea is not always calm and the unexpected happens with the structure dispersed across the ocean and all the inhabitants foundering in the waves. Is Arnold stumped? Not he.

I can imagine the audience calling out all sorts of ways Arnold could solve this problem, and the solution will satisfy all readers.

The wonderful illustrations will keep readers glued to each page, noting the different ways each of the boats is used to create space on the island. The details is marvellous, enticing and fascinating, making sure every eye is pinned to each page in case something is missed.

A most informative Youtube clip can be found here.

Themes: Innovation, Humour, Construction, STEM. Problem solving.

Fran Knight