AN EYE FOR ELEPHANTS
Not just an eye for elephants but a whale of an appetite for them: thirty-five variations on the rhyme "I asked my mother for fifty cents/ To see the elephant jump the fence. . . ." Taken one at a time they're nimble and engagingly cartooned, swinging from slapstick to slyer tricks: "I conned my granny out of a fin/ To see the elephant guzzle gin,/ Get dreadfully drunk,/ And use his trunk/ To vacuum-clean his dusty skin." Now and then Mr. Steig leaves kids in the lurch ("My mother gave me a Mexican peso/ To watch the elephant work in gesso./ In less than an hour/ He painted a flower/ And a life-size portrait of Eisenhower") but then there's the elephant who "made such a racket/ That it caused Mr. Brackett/ To hide his head in his corduroy jacket." Likable, then, but less than practical as a read-aloud, there being more to the verses than to the pictures, or for independent reading, there being just too many of them.