The old adage that if you dream it, you can do it gets (rightfully) turned on its head in this sweet concoction.
Monkey can jump. Lion can jump. Even Giraffe can jump, so why can’t Elephant? The grown-up elephants’ answers sound pretty vague (“It’s just the way we’re made”; “Something to do with our knees”), so young Elephant sets out to prove them wrong. After each failed attempt Elephant is teased by the animals that can jump and eventually gives up and gorges himself instead. Seeking a good sulking place, he discovers a boy stranded on a ledge and in need of rescue. The other animals attempt to use their jumping skills to save him but instead only worsen the situation. It’s Elephant, who now discovers his own true talent, who saves the day. Willis’ text balances out the nicely sardonic world of adults with the in-your-face optimism of kids. At no point does Elephant ever jump, and so the message of accepting what can and cannot be changed remains strong. Elephant’s turn to food as a comfort for his failures seems rather adult and out of place. But Reynolds’ choice to keep Elephant from visibly reacting to each failure endows the main character with a deadpan humor that should appeal to preschoolers.
Elephant may fail spectacularly, but this is a success story through and through. (Picture book. 3-6)