A beautifully rendered, anthropomorphic elephant tenderly (sort of) puts a pachyderm child to bed.
The first four sets of pages feature large, bold, purple words on the verso and charmingly smudgy pastel-and-collage artwork on the recto. The initial phrase, “I could eat your little ears,” is set opposite a watercolor adult elephant wearing a patterned bathrobe and affectionately embracing a baby elephant. The background is a tastefully decorated room, including a lacy chair holding a thumbed-through (or perhaps trunked-through) book. Established, the pattern follows with this banal-at-best and alarming-at-worst text: “I could nibble on your nose. / I could munch your tiny fingers. / I could gobble up your toes.” The pastel purple and gold artwork mesmerizes, as the adult elephant tenderly hoists the baby and proceeds to carry it upstairs toward the bedroom. The text then mentions numerous other possible, now-gentle actions by the adult elephant, as in “I could sing you all the songs that my mother sang to me.” Eventually, the rhyming text reaches the expected conclusion, with the adult elephant gently kissing the babe, laid in a bassinet, to sleep. Though it is eminently clear that this child is not about to become supper, the cannibalistic opening quatrain followed by a gushingly affectionate outpouring makes for a book that only a certain type of grandparent could read aloud to a very young grandchild.
Quay’s striking illustrations cannot rescue this one. (Picture book. 1-3)