A small and wandering elephant finds out why it’s a good idea to stay in line with its bigger kin.
Not even knee-high to the grown elephants—portrayed, in Lambert’s mottled tissue-collage illustrations, as towering well beyond the page tops—frisky Little Why is continually distracted by other animals. Like many a toddler, what this elephant’s child sees becomes instantly desirable. But requests for “spiny-spiky special horns” like the wildebeest’s, the giraffe’s “long-lofty leggy legs,” and the cheetah’s “speedy-spotty, fuzzy fur” all get the same stern response when the child’s excitement causes a halt in the elephant parade’s progress: “Stay in line!” Then, drawn to admire a crocodile’s “snippy-snappy snazzy snout,” (shades of that more-renowned elephant’s child), Little Why very nearly comes to grief. At last the herd arrives at a watering hole, where a parental pachyderm descends into view to point out what the sulky calf does have (“a super-squirty trunk”) and explain that “you’re special just the way you are!” In addition to echoing Kipling’s plot, Lambert seems to be consciously emulating its language, at least a little: “At the back and in-between the Elders, Little Why walked in line… / …well almost!” And “almost” is about as close as he gets.
Bright and reassuring…and if Kipling’s wordplay is better, at least there’s no spanking here. (Picture book. 4-6)