Will the officious, sneering guard at the art museum eventually banish a boy and his elephant friend, Émile?
As soon as the boy and his pachyderm pal enter the museum, the guard greets them with, “Not so fast, sweetie pie!” After grilling them on the rules, he follows the pair through gallery after gallery, constantly bullying and berating the sensitive elephant. The bespectacled, large-headed boy narrator exhibits behavior that will resonate with readers. Each time the guard insults Émile, the boy is politely acquiescent. After the guard has left the room, the boy lists all the rebuttals he wishes he had made. (Cleverly, these include interesting facts about elephants’ ears and trunks.) The underlying, serious message is well-balanced by the humorous premise and continued humor in art and text. There is also a fundamental introduction to art appreciation. Young readers will particularly enjoy the semidark pages in which two criminals think Émile is an exhibit. One sentence of narration feels a bit off: The boy asserts that the guard should know he and Émile will be careful, since they are not “gorillas.” It’s more of the text’s absurdity, to be sure, but it may subvert the message. All characters (except the blue-gray elephant) present as white. The text and illustrations have the air of a sophisticated picture book; the trim makes it look like a novel.
This quirky French-Canadian import stands out—rather like an elephant at an art museum. (Fiction. 6-8)