Well-chosen elements: Elephant Elements by Pittau and Gervais.

Here’s a novelty; I’m talking about a kids’ book. Originally published in French as Les Contraires, Elephant Elements is that rare beast, a work aimed at kids which pleases adults but without being sly or condescending.

The front cover of <i>Elephant Elements</i>.

The front cover of Elephant Elements.

So many childrens’ books illustrate one word per page, to build vocabulary and teach those first few words. How could one word offer scope for wit, style and panache? This is where some creative people can find new ground where there seems to be none. This book does it by, as the French title suggests, pairing opposites. But it does it in the context of what they would mean for an elephant. And it does the unexpected. ‘Big/Small’ is commonplace, but how about ‘Solid/Liquid’? How does that work for an elephant? Below is a personal favourite, that captures the impish wit of the book.

Is it me on the left or the right? Yes, they are pretty much identical.

Is it me on the left or the right? Yes, they are pretty much identical.

There’s a kind of comedian’s timing to the entries. A few commonplace pairings, like ‘Big/Small’, then something a little unexpected. Then a few more plain ones and then… Until you are turning every page with a little thrill of anticipation. Will it be conventional (though still illustrated in those charmingly simple drawings)? Or will it be completely out of left field?

Well, I don’t want to spoil it. But I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who likes one word per page.

Other children’s activities.

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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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