In this fine, low-key parable, Willy the elephant sports all elephant particulars: floppy ears, stout legs, dinky tail, general bigness.
He is drawn by Cneut as if made from artful cement though maybe a little fragile, like an old fresco. “He had two huge ears that flapped in the wind. And in between was his head…” De Kockere’s text is artful, too, and gently, mildly eccentric: “He stood like a mast. That came in very handy when you needed someone to hold something—a clothesline full of laundry, for instance.” Willy is comfortable in his elephantness; he knows how best to deploy his ears and tail and trunk and size: “Sometimes he was called on to come and push with that enormous body of his. A child who didn’t want to go to school, or a car that stood in the way.” The other characters in the story are drawn in hot colors—reds, some yellows—on fields of white along with gray Willy and with the same strange, haunting delicacy. But it is the unexpected turn that De Kockere takes at the story’s end that is the showstopper. Suddenly we are all Willy, in one great inclusive hug; maybe we, too, have stout legs, ears that flap in the wind, general bigness or “a little something somewhere, with a ridiculous little brush at the end.”
Readers will be inspired to think of Willy: These aren’t defects, they’re worthy attributes, capable of delivering something good. (Picture book. 4-8)