Painterly portraits of African wildlife add naturalistic notes to this ever popular Just So story.
“In the High and Far-off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk.” Except that the much-spanked pachyderm’s “ ’satiable curtiosity” has inexplicably been changed throughout to “ ’satiable curiosity,” the text with its glorious wordplay is, like the storyline, intact. Lauströer leaves backgrounds sketchy but lavishes attention on his animals—all of which are dark, solid, massive figures, depicted realistically enough to be practically smellable. Sometimes he follows the storyline literally, even putting into the scene accompanying the short-nosed young enquirer’s first impression of the crocodile a rather predatory-looking tree trunk. Elsewhere he lets fancy fly, festooning the tail of an ostrich with daisies, for instance, and transforming the white pattern on a giraffe into a loose net in which the lively Elephant’s Child is tangled. In the wake of the return of Elephant’s Child with a long trunk just right for meting out corporal punishment of his own, all of his relatives rush off to “borrow” new noses from Crocodile, and their return parade sporting stretched-out schnozzes (even the zebra and wildebeest) caps the pictures in droll style.
The story is rather violent by current standards, but the accomplished visuals in this edition serve its rich, resonant language nicely. (Picture book. 6-9)