The big city is clearly New York, but it’s a grayed and sepia city sometime in the late 1940s, judging from the cars and clothing.
Elliot is a small, polka-dot elephant who loves his city even though it is hard for him to catch a cab or even open a door. (And he does the dishes by sitting in the sink with them.) He’s too little to be seen when he tries to buy his favorite treat, a cupcake, and that makes him sad. But he sees a tiny, very hungry mouse trying desperately to scale a trash bin for scraps. He manages to help get Mouse something to eat, and lo! He feels “like the tallest elephant in the world!” With Mouse’s help, the next day he gets that cupcake. The last image peers through Elliot’s window to find him and Mouse sharing it. The Flatiron Building, brownstone steps and the Empire State Building are clearly recognizable, giving the story Big Apple authenticity. The art has its own meticulous beauty, but the story is more saccharine than sweet—rather like too much frosting on a cupcake. The endpapers are a lush repetitive pattern of variegated cupcakes, with cameos by Elliot and Mouse.
This feels far more like a parable for adults than a picture book for children, who may also miss the elegance of the New York City images in their dark, soft palette. (Picture book. 4-7)