The pachyderm who searched for friendship in Little Elliot, Big City (2014) returns to seek a family in this follow-up.
Elliot’s buddy, Mouse, is departing for a family reunion. With a huge clan—the cousins alone total 147—the group size in Mouse’s photograph contrasts with the two figures (Elliot and Mouse) in Elliot’s frame. Curato’s palette and style are reminiscent of Edward Hopper. The lone elephant appears in an open window, the sole figure in a double-page spread depicting rows of closed, opaque panes in a brown facade near a barren tree: “The house was quiet. And empty.” Subdued greens and reds predominate, and while some of the figures in the multiethnic neighborhood scenes are in groups, others are hidden behind newspapers or shadows, adding to the sense of isolation. Employing a restrained text, Curato mines the visuals for emotional impact, as when he portrays Elliot among a sea of empty chairs inside the cinema, tearfully watching a family film. The black-and-white movie connects to reality when the protagonist exits into a nocturnal snowfall. All is well when Mouse, having missed Elliot, invites him back to the candlelit attic feast. Playful endpapers mimic fine art and family portraits, with one very large addition.
Young children will easily relate to Elliot’s experience of loneliness and his relief at inclusion, both convincingly captured in this elegant tale. (Picture book. 3-6)